A CONTROVERSIAL pub’s successful application to start selling alcohol from 9am has been condemned by a councillor.

The PoundPub in Stockton had originally applied to Stockton Borough Council to start selling alcohol at 8am and Cleveland Police had objected.

However, when the pub changed its application to start selling alcohol at 9am, in line with other premises in the town, Cleveland Police dropped its objection.

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That meant a licensing committee meeting was cancelled and council officers were allowed to wave through the application.

Councillor Phil Dennis, Conservative, a member of the committee, said the authority could still have “made a stand” against the pub.

He said: “The council now has responsibility to take a lead on health issues and should have taken a stronger stand on the grounds it promotes earlier drinking.

“We’re spending all this money on regenerating and promoting the town centre, and when you walk past this it is like it’s bringing us back to square one. It’s the branding, the image that’s wrong...it looks cheap.”

Cllr Steve Nelson, Stockton Council’s cabinet member for housing and community safety, explained the reason for the decision.

He said: “We have expressed our concerns about this pub’s branding and entire concept from the outset but the sad fact is, we don’t have the powers to do a great deal about it.

“We have absolutely no control over the price they choose to sell their product at, in the same way we can’t control any other businesses’ pricing.

“The Licensing Act states that a licence will be granted unless any representations are received and as, in this case, the representations were withdrawn before the hearing. The council as licensing authority had no option but to grant the variation.”

Cleveland Police’s objection had said: “The premises is situated in an area which has been declared a ‘hot spot’ for anti-social behaviour. The reason for this is partly due to alcohol-related crime and disorder.

“Given the fact that the alcohol is being advertised at a cheaper price than most premises, it is of concern to Cleveland Police that patrons will potentially be allowed to drink for 16 hours a day.”

However, following the withdrawal, a Cleveland Police spokeswoman said the change to start selling alcohol from 9am instead of 8am had changed the police’s position.

She said: “The new proposal is in line with a number of other premises within the town.”

No-one could be contacted for comment from the PoundPub, but managers at the pub chain have repeatedly stressed their “very strict” policy on not selling alcohol to drunks. The pub will be allowed to open from 8am to sell coffee, tea and food.