A CONTROVERSIAL plan for a major supermarket in Winchester to have a late-night alcohol license has been approved.

Tesco made an application to sell alcohol from 7am to 11pm on Monday to Sunday at a new store on the High Street.

The store on the former premises of River Island could open as early as December with 15 to 21 members of staff.

A petition against the application was signed by 230 people and was handed to Winchester City Council prior to the licensing meeting.

There were fears if the license hours were approved it would result in increased noise and anti-social behaviour.

But on decision day there were only two residents in attendance and one other person registered to speak on the application.

Jeremy Bark, Tesco’s lawyer, told the licensing sub-committee: “The idea is it allows convenient shopping for those living and working in the area. Alcohol forms a small but important part of that.

“It is a very carefully collected range of drinks to go with people selecting drinks for meals.

“They are going to be buying alcohol as part of a broader shop.”

He added that no statutory authorities, including the police, objected to the application and that there would be at least 10 cameras on the shop floor, including in the alcohol section.

Addressing fears over anti-social behaviour, he continued: “Our stance is simple – we will not tolerate it.

“Some representations alluded to need. Need is not a relevant criteria in terms of licensing. Some represent fears, but there is a distinction between fears and what will actually happen.

There’s been suggestions that we somehow sell cheap alcohol, but we simply do not accept that.”

Cllr Roger Bentote asked how staffing would work late at night.

Mr Bark replied: "We will make sure we have the right number of staff at those times and this is kept under review. There will be a 12 week rolling process assessing security, we will do that automatically."

Cllr Sue Cook said: “Nobody likes to see an empty unit but the problem is the number of hours you wish to be selling alcohol.

“We have a number of drinking places in Winchester and that can be quite demanding for the police.

“We have M and S and they choose to open 8.30am to 7pm even though they have longer licensing hours. Sainsburys are the same.

“It is late. It will fuel more people. Maybe the store can stay open to 11pm but alcohol can stop being sold at 8pm.

“We are open for business here in Winchester. We want you here, we care about our city, so please listen to what the members of the general public have to say.”

Chairman Richard Izard said that although the committee acknowledged the concerns of those worried about possible crime and public disorder, there was no evidence to back up their assumption, and so there were no adequate grounds for refusal.

He added that if there was a problem the licence could always be reviewed.