AN NHS Fife chief concerned about booze-related injuries and deaths in Cowdenbeath warned that allowing more alcohol to be sold "will lead to an increase in bad health".

Public health consultant, Paul Madill, outlined their objection to Aldi's application for their store in Stenhouse Street and said drink had helped claim the lives of 91 local people in the last three years.

Fife Licensing Board was told that the supermarket chain wanted to extend their beers, wines and spirits offering due to a store redesign.

However, Mr Madill said that, in the Cowdenbeath area alone, alcohol related hospital visits had increased 40 per cent since 2012 and there were already 10 off sales in the vicinity.

He said: “Cowdenbeath has higher instances of both alcohol related injuries and deaths than not just Fife, but the Scottish national average.

"Since 2016, 91 people have died from alcohol specific deaths in that area; an increase of 26 per cent.

“More than 70 per cent of alcohol sold in Scotland comes from off sales and there are 10 shops within 800 metres, which is double the Fife average. There is a clear association between the availability of alcohol and harm in the lowest income group.

“Given the sharp increase in the number of deaths in recent years, the 40 per cent increase in alcohol related injuries in this one specific location of Fife, we ask to refuse this application on the basis it will increase the alcohol related harm.”

A representative for Aldi told the board that they were only asking for a small increase from 30.1 to 31.5 square metres as a redesign of the shop saw the alcohol unit move from a side wall to the back wall.

The solicitor added: “Alcohol displays still only make up a very small part of the shop – just three per cent.”

But Mr Madill noted that the “small” increase actually represented a 27 per cent growth in alcohol display within the store.

Councillor Ryan Smart said: “I think what the NHS is doing is commendable. As a society we should be decreasing our alcohol intake. However, we as a council decided that we weren’t going to have an over-provision policy due to being unable to regulate online sales.”

Mr Madill said: “There is no evidence that online sales of alcohol contributes to harm. Less than 10 per cent of alcohol sales is being sold online.

“The real harm is coming from off sales being bought in communities like this one. I accept there is no over-provision policy but I do think it’s quite clear that alcohol is particularly high in this area and an increase in availability will increase the harm.

“This application, if passed, will lead to an increase in bad health, higher than the rest of the Fife average.”

All board members agreed to grant the licence.