Council throws out policy to control new off-licences in Wisbech in favour of wider crackdown against any business that sells alcohol to drunks or those underage

One of many posts over the years on Facebook by Fenland police dealing with street drinking in Wisbe

One of many posts over the years on Facebook by Fenland police dealing with street drinking in Wisbech. Picture; POLICING FENLAND - Credit: Archant

Restrictions on the opening of new off-licences in Wisbech are to be lifted as part of changes that will see the focus shift towards tougher measures to tackle underage and street drinking.

Opposition by Wisbech Town Council to the cumulative impact assessment (CIA) policy that has guided off-licence applications in recent years has led to Fenland Council ditching it.

Town council leader Sam Hoy, also a district council cabinet member, said the cumulative impact policy had wrongly been seen by the public as "something that would have an impact on street drinking".

Unfortunately, not, she told the licensing committee, and if anything, street drinking had got worse.

The issue had sparked a heated debate within both the committee and the town council with many arguing that with 60 outlets already in Wisbech selling alcohol enforcement should monitor them as opposed to stopping new businesses from opening.

Councillors had argued that there were premises in the town, mainly existing off sales, that were selling alcohol to people already quite heavily intoxicated "and this is where the issue lies" said Cllr Andy Maul.

The district council has agreed that the CIA - introduced seven years ago - is no longer necessary or useful and has dropped it.

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"The district council is pursuing more robust methods of controlling inconsiderate use of alcohol in Wisbech town centre, in response to ongoing public concerns about street drinking," said a spokesman.

A licencing compliance action plan is being developed that will include tackling existing licence holders who breach their licensing conditions, such as by selling alcohol to intoxicated or underage persons.

"The action plan also proposes communication campaigns to increase intelligence reporting from the community, the launch of further test purchase operations and an examination of other potential enforcement options," said the spokesman.

Councillor Sam Clark, portfolio holder for licensing, said: "The CIA policy was initially introduced in response to calls for action to solve alcohol-related issues.

"Where residents feel that actions are not effective, it is important we are able to adapt our approach in an agile and meaningful way.

"We need to push forward with other methods to address the concerns, including looking at enforcement to ensure existing licensees are complying with their licences."