A Moray petrol station has been granted a round-the-clock licence to sell food despite passionate objections from neighbours.
Locals have warned that allowing the Greshop pumps in Forres, which are operated by Malthurst, to stay open 24 hours could bring back rowdy behaviour to the area.
George Fairclough, who lives near the site, claimed the petrol station was “a magnet” for anti-social behaviour when it opened through the night under previous owners in the 1990s.
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He described crowds of up to 20 youths “rioting” in the garage while setting off fire extinguishers – prompting concerns the petrol station itself was ablaze.
But solicitor Andrew Hunter, who represented Malthurst at yesterday’s meeting of Moray Council’s licensing committee, pledged the firm would take action if trouble started on the Nairn Road forecourt again.
Locals attending the talks branded the decision to grant the licence as “rubbish” as they left the chambers.
Last night, Forres councillor George Alexander urged residents to keep a vigilant watch on the petrol station and report disturbances to the police.
He said: “Some of the behaviour in the 1990s was absolutely shocking, residents across the road were seriously intimidated. I hope social behaviour has moved on since then.
“I have a lot of sympathy for the people who live there but a lot of time has passed and there are new owners. I don’t think there were grounds to refuse the licence.”
The petrol station, which is known locally as the Matrix, already has a licence to sell fuel round-the-clock but is currently only open from 6am to 10pm.
Mr Fairclough believed that if the operators decided to stay open through the night then the issues reported 20 years ago would soon return.
He said: “The issue isn’t with people buying bread or milk but with youths coming down when the pubs shut.
“We have enough problems with the opening hours of the garage as it is without food being sold overnight. It’s a magnet.”
Mr Hunter stressed that Malthurst had built up a track-record as a reputable operator of petrol stations across the country, including on East Road and West Road in Elgin which are both open 24 hours.
He said the store had no intentions of starting to sell hot takeaway food and was solely interested in making its existing products available overnight.
Mr Hunter added: “The premises are already covered by CCTV. The neighbours won’t have to contact the police if there are 20 youths causing havoc outside because we would already be doing that ourselves.
“There are other shops that already sell pizzas and kebabs in the town. We are quite happy to leave them to do that and have no interest in doing the same.”
The licence was granted unanimously.