Council votes to stamp out street drinking in parts of Wisbech
- Credit: Archant
A petition with 2,293 signatures has been claimed by its organiser for helping to secure a “tougher enforcement regime” to stop street drinking in Wisbech.
The petition was launched three weeks ago by Jamie Cook of Emneth, who presented the petition to a full meeting of Fenland Council today (Thu). He was joined by his family and several supporters.
Mr Cook assured councillors the petition “is not political, it does not belong to anyone.
“It is purely about friends, families and neighbours telling us they are worried and scared.”
Mr Cook said that one mum signed the petition because she doesn’t want her children to be scared to go out and play in the park.
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“That’s frankly not acceptable in 2017,” Mr Cook said. “It’s affecting elderly, vulnerable people in the community, as well.
“I spoke to one lady who won’t go shopping during the day on her own because she’s scared. It’s disgusting.
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“The issue isn’t going to disappear and Fenland District Council has the power to affect the change that people are crying out for.”
Councillors agreed a motion unanimously to “build on the work that has been undertaken by the Alcohol Partnership for Wisbech”.
The council agreed to “the implementation of a tougher enforcement regime” by bringing in a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) and fixed penalty notices; the order was approved at by cabinet earlier in the day.
The council also pledged to engage with street drinkers and will use a central government fund to tackle root causes and address those issues.
Fenland wants to reduce sales of alcohol to drunken persons through new initiatives.
The PSPO will be linked to the ongoing Wisbech 2020 Vision and reviewed in a year’s time.
Though Mr Cook’s initial call for a town-wide ban was not accepted, the PSPO enforces a ban on alcohol consumption in St Peter’s Gardens, Tillery Field, Wisbech town centre and The Crescent.
Councillor David Oliver, former leader of Wisbech Town Council and cabinet member for community safety and heritage, said: “The Alcohol Partnership for Wisbech has taken a number of proactive steps already. There have been 21 patrols since April, with police and other organisations.
“There is no quick fix but we are making steady progress. We have changed our approach following consultation to include Wisbech town centre. If issues arise, we and our partners have powers to tackle it.”
Cllr Oliver said that street drinking patrols have involved police officers whose focus is to take steps to engage with street drinkers.
He also said that recovery walks – “monthly patrols in the main hotspot areas” - have been taking place in order to support street drinkers, find out why they’re drinking and to try to assist them.
He added that funding to pay for an outreach officer will be in place by the end of 2017.
Councillor Steve Count, who is also leader of Cambridgeshire County Council, said he supported the PSPO.
“It has potential for success but it needs to be measured accurately to see if it’s having an effect”, he said.
Councillor Michelle Tanfield, cabinet member for leisure and young people, said: “It is twofold. We’re working really hard to change the way people think about alcohol, so they don’t feel as though they need to drink all the time.
“It’s also important to think about people’s mental health and wellbeing, providing opportunities to get help if they need it.”
Councillor Gavin Booth said: “The sentiments expressed today are certainly true given the amount of debate this petition has generated. It has galvanized a lot of activity.
“Without this petition, street drinking wouldn’t have got up the agenda like it has today.”
Cllr Booth did however propose that the motion be amended to include a review every three months – not one per year.
It was initially seconded by Cllr Virginia Bucknor who said “residents have got so frustrated because we know things have got worse.
“Naturally, people don’t feel anything has been happening”.
But Councillor Jan French felt that “I don’t actually three months will give enough information”.
Councillor Sam Hoy, who is also leader of Wisbech Town Council, said: “I don’t feel that three months is enough time because we want to bring in homelessness and health and wellbeing, too.”
Cllr Oliver replied that “PSPOs will be monitored on a regular basis, and can be implemented quickly in other areas. An alcohol control zone will become active at the same time, on October 20. We will be monitoring it on a regular basis.”