Express & Star

Services near M6 junction allowed to serve alcohol 24 hours a day after council mix-up

Plans for a petrol station close to a motorway junction to serve alcohol 24 hours a day have been ‘temporarily’ backed by the council.

Gateway Service Station, Birmingham Road, Great Barr. The garage has been granted a 24-hour licence

Sandwell Council’s planning committee was forced to allow the Gateway Service Station, in Birmingham Road, Great Barr, next to Junction 7 of the M6, to open 24 hours a day despite concerns from neighbours.

During the planning meeting, it was discovered that a different council department had already awarded the garage a 24-hour licence months earlier.

The ‘temporary’ permission means the decision for the 24-hour garage will be reviewed in a year.

The council’s planning committee was first asked to decide on permanently changing the garage’s opening hours in November last year, but a ruling was delayed to allow for noise tests after complaints from neighbours about future disruption and anti-social behaviour.

In the meantime, the council’s licensers awarded the garage a 24-hour licence.

The planning application re-emerged when councillors met last month and following talks with the council, the garage agreed to request temporary two-year permission for the extended opening hours.

Councillor Elen Fenton was the first to raise her concerns about the application at the meeting and pointed to a roadside sign advertising the garage’s off-licence. Councillor Fenton said there was a big difference between a 24-hour garage solely selling petrol and a 24-hour off-licence focusing on selling alcohol.

But while there were concerns, the committee was told it had little power to stop the 24-hour plans – especially with the already-approved licence.

Councillor Preece said refusing planning permission – and adding restrictions on alcohol – was “trying to attach the cart after the bull had bolted” after learning the council had already issued a 24-hour licence.

He said banning certain items at different times would “overcomplicate” the licence and planning permission and the ban would no doubt be overturned by an appeal.

The council said issuing ‘temporary’ planning permission meant it would be in the owner’s interest to “make it work” and neighbouring residents, police and the council had enough powers to change or remove the licence if problems started.

Sandwell Council planning officer John Baker said it would be “very difficult … if not impossible” to enforce and it needed to be a “black and white decision” of either allowing or preventing stopping late-night sales.

The council also requested restrictions which meant that between 11pm and 6am, all sales must be made through a night-pay window. During the same period, no deliveries could be made, some petrol and diesel pumps would be restricted and the use of the jet wash, air machines, Amazon lockers and electric charging points would also be banned.

The garage’s PA system could only be used between 7am and 8pm.