Controls on alcohol sales in Wisbech to remain despite fears from town council
PUBLISHED: 17:20 02 October 2019 | UPDATED: 17:20 02 October 2019
Additional controls on alcohol sales in part of Wisbech - including the town centre - that were imposed three years ago are to remain.
Fenland District Council licensing committee agreed on Wednesday to retain a cumulative impact policy (CIP) despite opposition from the town council.
Town council leader Samantha Hoy, who is also Fenland council cabinet member for housing, disagreed that the policy was actually working.
She said: "If this (CIP) really works then we should have in place for the whole of Wisbech.
"There are very big social problems with alcohol but not just in Wisbech.
"A lot of these problems require the police, but they don't have the time to be out arresting people street drinking everyday.
"It has not worked, because the problem has got worse."
But Cllr Andy Maul, who represents Waterlees, said the policy should remain "because it allows the authority to examine things fully before they make applications".
The committee - that was told alcohol is a "serious problem" in Wisbech - was reminded that the policy allows the district council to refuse new outlets selling alcohol.
Businesses who want to apply for an alcohol licence in the town centre and nearby wards must prove that they will not be impacting on any of the "current issues the area is suffering".
Councillors were told that the life expectancy of a man in Wisbech was four years less than other counties due to drinking.
The committee was warned of how police and public health bosses were "concerned" about the impact on alcohol in some of the most deprived areas in the town.
Joe Keegan, of the county council public health team, said: "People are three times more likely to have alcohol related liver disease in Wisbech.
"There are 17 off licences in the town and nine are in the most deprived area.
"Five out of seven have alcohol related hospital admissions."
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Despite police data showing a decrease in street drinking overall across Fenland, licensing officer PC Grahame Robinson said there had been over a 60 per cent increase in crimes reported from April to August compared to last year.
"We are receiving fewer calls for street drinking and there have been significant reductions," he explained.
"But a search in the system showed 164 crimes over five months, which is 66 per cent higher than last year.
"This could be due to police not placing priority due to crime elsewhere or the public may not be reporting it because they feel nothing will be done.
"But we need to look at the Medworth ward as a priority, because it is a serious problem and that's where off licences are."
A public consultation was held over five weeks this summer, with 30 responses received.
The CIP zone was approved to be kept as it currently is with amendments to Public Space Protection Orders (PSPO) areas on the map.
Where a CIP is in place, there is usually a presumption that applications for new premises licences or variations to existing premises licenses, such as an increase in hours, will be refused.
Five councillors voted in favour, while four were against.
It will now be discussed at a full council meeting.
In the report presented to the licensing committee, local policing said that street drinking remains a "real concern for the community".
"Social media discussion forums are frequently referencing Wisbech street drinking with evidence of empty cans and bottles."
Wisbech Town Council added: "It is disappointing when a policy is put in place to address an issue but fails to do so.
"Although the intention of the policy is laudable, it is not effective, reducing the number of premises which are allowed to sell alcohol does not reduce the supply, all it does is protect the existing licensed premises.
"It does not mean the policy should be abandoned, just that it is not the means by which to achieve a reduction in street drinking in Wisbech."