THE new leader of Hyndburn Council has been criticised for selling a clothes store to a national off-licence chain.

Councillor Peter Britcliffe put ladies' fashion shop Just You, in Whalley Road, Accrington, on the market and has been made an offer by Bargain Booze.

But residents have objected to the plans because they fear the new shop will encourage under-age drinking and increase problems of juvenile nuisance.

And newsagent Gulan Mulla, whose shop is four doors down from the proposed off-licence, said there are already enough premises in the area selling alcohol without Bargain Booze opening another.

Coun Jones, of Peel ward, is also furious at the news.

He said: "I think it is terrible that a supposed pillar of the community such as Peter can consider allowing his premises to become another alcohol outlet given there is an issue that the area is completely saturated with off-licences.

"He really should know better. The area has got significant problems including juvenile nuisance and it is taking up a tremendous amount of the police and fire service's time.

"It is about time we put something positive back into the area and another booze outlet is anything but that."

Mr Mulla said the national chain had wanted to open next door to his shop but they pulled out after 24 objections were received.

He said: "There are simply too many off-licences already, about six in total.

"Bargain Booze did applied to open a store, last year but pulled out when they received 24 objections.

"They said the application was formally withdrawn, but that they will open another some considerable distance from the proposed site.

"We didn't realise a considerable distance meant only 100 yards away.

"We've had a lot of problems with nuisance youths in the area. I even had one recently who threatened to attack me with a can."

Sylvia Alty, scheme manager at nearby Friar Court Sheltered housing, said: "The proposed site is 200 yards away across the road from us where I look after 60 senior citizens in the local area.

"They are most upset because of the vandalism and feel that another off-licence would only cause more unruly behaviour."

Coun Britcliffe said: "I am selling a property and it is available to anyone. I can't determine what it is used for.

"It is going before the magistrates and they will determine whether it is suitable. If Councillor Jones wanted to sell his house I wouldn't condemn him for selling it to whoever he wanted to."

A spokesman for Bargain Booze, which has more than 400 franchised outlets nationwide, including seven in East Lancashire, said: "We won't be causing unruly behaviour by opening in Accrington.

"We have just opened a store in Darwen and there used to be up to 60 youths outside.

"We have got good security cameras outside and we liaise with police forces regularly.

"We have had the council up and we also go round to visit local people to set their minds at rest.

"We employ security people at the weekend when we used to have the youths.

"They have got the message now that they won't get alcohol or cigarettes and they tend not to gather outside now. It will be the same in Accrington."

The case is due to be heard at Hyndburn Magistrates on Thursday, July 10.