COUNCILLORS have ruled that two petrol stations are not petrol stations.
In a national test case, Kirklees Council yesterday decided that garages in Huddersfield and Dewsbury are not garages – and can continue selling alcohol.
West Yorkshire Police had asked councillors to review the licences of the Total petrol stations on Leeds Road in Bradley and Huddersfield Road in Ravensthorpe.
Both business are permitted to sell alcohol 24-hours-a-day.
But officers believe that garages are banned from selling drink under Section 176 of the Licensing Act 2003.
Barrister Oliver Thorn put the case for the police at yesterday’s meeting of the council’s Licensing Panel at Huddersfield Town Hall.
“The aim of Section 176 is to keep people who are driving vehicles as far away from the temptation of purchasing alcohol as possible,” he told councillors.
“Parliament saw fit to limit the sales of alcohol from garage premises to prevent crime.”
Mr Thorn added that the businesses at Bradley and Ravensthorpe were garages.
“An analysis of the cashflow and footfall shows they are garages. That means the businesses are excluded premises,” he said.
Mr Thorn told the three-strong panel that the hearing could have wide implications. “This is a test to see if the police’s view of all garages is correct,” he said.
“The police have their concerns about other premises. Once something has been allowed to develop in the way that it has, any attempt to deal with it has to start somewhere.”
Police carried out three surveys of customers arriving at the petrol stations.
From 2.30pm to 3.30pm on December 6, 2011, officers found 37 drivers buying fuel from the Bradley station, seven motorists using either the shop or the cash machine and two pedestrians going to the convenience store.
Two days later, police surveyed the same site from 9.47pm to 10.47pm. They recorded 38 vehicles using the fuel pumps, 10 drivers calling in to either use the ATM or shop and one pedestrian visiting the convenience store.
On December 15, 2011 officers monitored the Ravensthorpe filling station for one hour from 12.15pm. They found 35 cars refuelling, 14 drivers using the cash machine or shop and six pedestrians going into the convenience store.
Rontec – which took over the running of all Total petrol stations last year – produced its own figures at yesterday’s meeting.
The company told the panel that more customers used the shops than the fuel pumps at both garages.
In Bradley, there was a daily average of 387 people using the shop only from July to December last year. Some 332 customers bought fuel only.
Some 128 customers used both the fuel pumps and the shop.
In the same period in Ravensthorpe there was an average of 442 fuel-only customers, 632 who just visited the shop and 121 who used both the fuel pumps and the convenience store.
The company also provided figures for November 2011 to February 2012 which showed the garages made nearly as much from grocery sales as from fuel.
The petrol station at Bradley sold £1.2m of fuel in the three months, but made only £45,336.
Shop sales were £140,980 in the same period. However, the margin was £43,023 – just £2,000 less than the fuel figure.
The Ravensthorpe station made £50,994 from its fuel sales from November 2011 to February 2012, and £47,512 from its shop sales.
The panel decided that both businesses could continue to sell alcohol.
Chairman Clr Masood Ahmed said: “The panel feels there’s sufficient evidence from the licence-holder to establish that the primary use of both sites is not in relation to garages.
“The sites are not excluded under Section 176. The licences will remain as they are without any modifications”.