Drug-taking and dealing taking place near Ossett Bus Station, public hearing told

Drug-taking and dealing is rife among youths in Ossett town centre, it's been claimed.

Friday, 27th November 2020, 7:00 am
Updated Friday, 27th November 2020, 5:26 pm

Local shop owner David Jones told a licensing hearing that he'd witnessed drug deals taking place close to the town's bus station and that elderly people "don't feel 100 per cent safe" in the area.

The claims were made in objection to a new off licence being allowed to sell alcohol at the nearby Seemore Shopping Centre in Ossett.

Mr Jones and local Labour councillor Lynn Masterman said they feared granting an alcohol licence would "exacerbate" existing problems with anti-social behaviour.

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Ossett Bus Station

But representatives for the shop's owner, Khalil Mustafa, produced official crime statistics for the area, which they said showed very low levels of offending.

The police withdrew their objection to the licence after negotiating several conditions with the store and councillors decided to approve Mr Mustafa's application.

Speaking on behalf of Mr Mustafa at the hearing on Friday, consultant Nick Semper said that over the last six months, only 14 police incidents of any kind had been recorded for the area around the shopping centre.

He said: "That equates to one a fortnight. This is remarkably low for any similar location.

The Seemore Shopping Centre in Ossett, where Mr Mustafa's new store will be located.

"This isn't a matter of my opinion, these are the facts in front of you.

"I'm not dismissing or making light of what these good people are saying, but there just needs to be some perspective."

Objectors had also raised concerns that a small gated area around the shopping centre's arcade would have to remain open until late at night and be a magnet for "gathering youths".

But Mr Semper said that issue was irrelevant because the gate would be open anyway to allow customer access to the shop for everyday non-alcoholic goods.

The hearing was told a "screen" would be put up within the gated area to limit public access after dark and CCTV cameras would be installed outside.

Mr Semper said: "I think the issue of the open and shut gate has been closed."

In response, Mr Jones told the hearing that "not every incident" was reported to the police.

He added: "Most of the youths aren't from the area. They get the bus into the town centre.

"If they're not in the bus station, the arcade is an area for them to gather as it's dimly lit and dry.

"The drinking of alcohol doesn't concern me because that doesn't really take place with the youths.

"They're more into drug taking and drug deals take place across from the proposed premises in the alleyway and at the rear of the bus station in the car park.

"People don't feel 100 per cent safe in the area, especially the older generation. There's been one or two random attacks and muggings."

After 40 minutes of deliberation, a panel of three councillors concluded the application should be granted.

The shop will be allowed to sell booze from 9am until 10pm.

Local Democracy Reporting Service