POLICE have called for plans to turn a city centre mall into a wine bar to be refused because it could become a "catalyst for crime", as reported by Penny Spiller in this newspaper in August 1997.

The Yates group has submitted an application to Worcester City Council to turn Angel Mall into a £1.5 million wine lodge.

But Worcester police fear a rise in crime while traders and bar owners say the area is already saturated with drinking spots.

A police study of the area warned the bar could became a focal point for public order, nuisance and criminal damage problems.

In a report, West Mercia police crime risk manager Greg Lawrence said the bar would become the “catalyst for an escalation of the area's existing crime and community safety problems”.

None of the 105 members of the Worcester and District Licensed Victuallers Association expressed any support for the wine lodge.

“This application will only serve to increase the unbalance between licensed and other retail outlets," said secretary Eric Richards.

His comments were backed by the owner of Tramps Nightclub, Studio 30 and Barrels Wine Bar as well as the owner of the Shakespeare Hotel.

Stephen Greenhill, managing director of Angel Place shop Motaphone, agreed.

“As a local retail shop we are of the opinion that there is already a plentiful amount of licensed premises in the location,” he said.

City council planning officers are recommending the scheme be refused.

The final decision rests with a planning inspector who will hold an inquiry into the application in April next year.

Chief planner Peter Yates said his recommendation was based on the likely increase of criminal activity in the area, no provision for on-site car parking and its detriment to the appearance and character of the area.

This is rejected by Bolton Emery, the wine bar group's planning consultants, who say fear of an increase in crime cannot be used as an argument in planning law.

The city council's planning committee will meet next Thursday to discuss the application.