RESIDENTS in Lower High Street in Stourbridge have raised concerns about a plan to turn an empty shop unit into an off-licence and bar.

The three-storey end of terrace property, known as Giles House, has up until recently been a thrift store but a plan has been submitted to Dudley Council requesting a change of use to turn the retail unit into an off-licence and drinking establishment.

A design and access statement on the council's planning website does not name the applicant behind the plan but says the proposal is to open a craft/independent beer retail business with a sit-in tasting area at the premises located by the Giles Hill alleyway by King Edward VI College.

It adds: "The tasting area is a supplementary marketing offering to encourage and facilitate the retail selling of the key bottle/ can products rather than as a drinking establishment which functions solely as a place for customers to drink alcohol. Sealed bottles and cans, displayed or stored on the premises, will not be made available to drink on the premises.”

Residents living nearby, however, have objected to the plan amid fears it will generate noise and nuisance and anti-social behaviour.

Speaking on behalf of objectors - Jonathan Taylor, of St Giles Row, told the News: "We, as long term residents, have concerns that this change of usage from a shop to a off license/bar will change our lives for the worse.

"Currently Lower High Street is relatively quiet and trouble free. However by putting a bar right next to the bulk of the properties and also opposite the Job Centre and Shooting Stars Nursery is a mistake in our view.

"The Job Centre already has to have a full time security officer on the entrance to control antisocial behaviour and there is a risk that locating an off-license across the road will increase unruly behaviour.

"We also suspect parents collecting their young children won't be overly happy if there is a rise in street drinkers hanging around in this area.

"The intention of the owners may well be to run a shop selling high end craft beers at premium prices to Stourbridge's beer connoisseurs. However the shop is also set up to taste this beer before buying it with a bar,

tables and chairs.

"Our concern is the bar may become more important than the retail unit and eventually it will be just another bar, contributing to noise and nuisance, particularly late at night, in what is a predominantly residential area.

"As residents who like a beer, we believe there are other places in Stourbridge town centre which are better locations for such a shop/bar.

"The High Street has many empty units that would be better for this purpose.

"Lower High Street has approximately 80 residential dwellings, which outnumber businesses by 2:1."

The application has been earmarked for approval by council officers and supporting documents on the council's planning website say the proposal would make use of a vacant commercial unit and "help to provide employment and a reinforce a strong thriving centre in an accessible and sustainable way".

A report to the planning committee adds: "While nearby residents have concerns about the proposal, it is noted the use would be open during day-time hours and until 8pm. Both West Midlands Police and the Council Environmental Safety and Health Officer do not object to the proposal and noting the town centre location. Residents in such locations could expect late night noise in this area.

"However, to ensure a level of protection to nearby residents it is considered that some safeguarding conditions could be added to limit expansion to the point where it may cause noise disturbance to those nearby residents.

"If approval is granted it is recommended conditions are attached to ensure no sound amplification equipment is operated and that opening hours be limited to 9am to 8pm Monday to Saturday."

It adds: "It is considered that the proposal accords with the objectives of the Black Country Core Strategy and Dudley Borough Development Plan and would not have any detrimental impact on the vitality and viability of the centre. Furthermore, local residents would not be detrimentally affected by the proposal."

It added that deliveries would be made in smaller transit type vans as the business would not affiliate with large breweries.

A decision will be made at Dudley Council's next development control committee meeting, taking place from 6pm on Thursday June 25.