Police say ‘no end in sight’ to Armley’s street-drinking problems

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Police say there is “no end in sight” to persistent street drinking and booze-fuelled crime on the streets of Armley.

Officers claim young children are having to walk past drunks fighting and swearing on a weekly basis, because cheap alcohol is too “readily available” there.

It comes as police, alongside Leeds West Labour MP Rachel Reeves, objected to a local shop’s plans to sell alcohol.

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The shop, in Branch Road, wants an alcohol licence.The shop, in Branch Road, wants an alcohol licence.
The shop, in Branch Road, wants an alcohol licence.

Ruslanas Zirnikas, who runs Lietuvaite Shop on Branch Road, has asked Leeds City Council for a licence to sell alcohol between 10am and 8pm every day.

But public health officials and the district’s three local councillors also objected to the bid, with a public hearing on Tuesday told Armley is one of the worst areas of the city for drink-related anti-social behaviour.

Local PCSO Brendan Counsell told the hearing: “We’ve been trying to tackle this street drinking problem for years now.

“We’ve found males passed out at 8am in the morning on Town Street (which adjoins Branch Road in Armley), blind drunk.

“Drinking and fighting can be any time during the day.

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“We’ve had large groups of men fighting before dinnertime and they’re absolutely leathered.

“They can be topless, walking past schoolchildren while shouting and swearing. It’s not a pleasant experience for them.”

PCSO Counsell said the issue was discouraging people from going shopping in Armley and that the problem had worsened since the end of lockdown.

He also said there was only a limited number of ways police could tackle it, as the people involved are treated as addicts.

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He added: “There’s no end in sight to this problem if I’m being honest.

“But there’s one thing we can do, which is to limit the amount of alcohol being sold around Town Street.”

The police’s view was backed by Ms Reeves MP, who did not attend the hearing, but in a written submission she called for the application to be rejected.

She wrote: “The links between easily available alcohol and anti-social behaviour on Armley Town Street have created an atmosphere which continues to turn away people who would otherwise want to go there.”

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Armley itself is in Leeds’ cumulative impact zone, meaning new alcohol licences are unlikely to be granted unless the applicant can demonstrate they will add something new to the area, or improve it.

The council’s public health representative, Jon Hindley, said that street drinking had been repeatedly raised an issue by Armley residents over the last year.

“Booze is everywhere – it’s mad”, he quoted a 58 year-old local man as saying.

He also said problems with litter and rats were linked to street drinking, although he suggested the vermin issue was “being controlled”.

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He added: “We wouldn’t want to stop anyone from earning an honest living.

“But for those walking past inebriated men and women every day, it can have a strong influence on impressionable young children in a deprived neighbourhood.”

However, shop boss Mr Zirnikas insisted he wouldn’t sell single cans deter street drinkers, and would charge a mininum price of £7.96 for a four-pack.

He also said he’d willingly pause alcohol sales between 3pm and 4pm to mitigate the impact on children walking home from school, but that he needed the licence to make his business viable.

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“Street drinkers won’t be coming into the shop for lager that’s this price,” he told the hearing.

“I won’t sell alcohol to people who are drunk.

“I’m applying for the licence because I’ve been trading for eight months and in those eight months I’m not making a profit.

“I’m working six to seven days a week.”

A panel of three councillors told Mr Zirnikas he’d be informed within five working days whether or not he would be granted a licence.