Petition calling for zero tolerance, drinking ban across Wisbech and licensed premises review now up to 1,300

Empty alcohol containers left by street drinkers in Wisbech.

Empty alcohol containers left by street drinkers in Wisbech. - Credit: Archant

Hundreds took to social media in Wisbech over the weekend to support a petition calling for a drinking ban in the town, zero tolerance to drunk and disorderly behaviour, a review of licensed premises, and enough resources to police it.

Alcohol confiscated by street-drinkers in Wisbech.

Alcohol confiscated by street-drinkers in Wisbech. - Credit: Archant

By Sunday night 1,300 had signed the petition to Fenland Council, MP Steve Barclay, police and crime commissioner Jason Ablewhite and the town and county councils.

It even prompted Sarah Bligh, Fenland district councillor for Parson Drove and Wisbech St Mary, to appeal to people outside of Wisbech to raise with her if she should support the call for action.

She said the strength of the petition meant it had enough names on it to ensure it was debated at Fenland Hall “and as your FDC representative I want to hear your thoughts so I can put together my approach”,

Posts to various Facebook groups showed widespread support for the petition.

Police officers deal with street drinking in Wisbech

Police officers deal with street drinking in Wisbech - Credit: Archant

“This needs to be stopped,” wrote a mother who said she was walking through the church gardens with her four-year-old child only to find a drunken man wobbling and urinating in the corner.

Another man who works with homeless people said that “ideally a ban on public drinking would be constructive; it is true that it would move the problem but at least away from public gaze and from prominent areas”.

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Peter Freeman said: “It would seem we now have a town with ‘no go’ areas for some mothers and their children. I have seen the problem first hand nearly every time I walk into town

He was sceptical the town council alone could solve the issues since “they are a toothless group with no real power and are not in a position to solve this problem or any real problem”.

Councillor Virginia Bucknor – and until recently a town councillor too- said when the zero tolerance was raised at a town council meeting “neither the mayor nor the leader supported it”.

One other resident said she walked down Chase Street on Friday lunchtime “with two drunken people staggering and shouting about; they scared me and come September my son will walk home from school that way.

“I’m not sure a ban is the answer but more police presence definitely is needed. It’s not fair to anyone who just wants to enjoy their town.”

Another though a public spaces protection order coming in soon and would make drinking in parts of the town might be sufficient.

“If we have an all town ban it would be an impossible task to police, so for that reason we would see less benefit from the order,” he wrote. “Unfortunately our police resources are limited and would have to prioritise their response at any given situation as it was happening at that time.”

Phillip Williams said: “People are fed up with drunken behaviour, urinating and defecating in public also in the church grounds.

“If St Peter’s was a mosque no way would it be allowed but its ok as it’s a church? Also women are afraid to walk through the park and I don’t think children would like to be exposed to this.

“We need a police presence and I am sure there are plenty of bylaws to ensure this. How can you expect people to invest in this town?

Another felt “we need a ban on open alcohol in a public place, .bottles or cans”

He said: “There could be exceptions made for when there is a festival in the park for example as long as no bottles or cans are taken on the public highway.

“Surely this is not rocket science, nor hard to implement and would solve the street drinking. The small shops too should stop giving out the small black bags in which to hide the alcohol.”

Wisbech mayor and town, district and county councillor Steve Tierney wrote on his blog at the weekend that “well obviously, there are a sizeable number of people who just don’t want to see anybody drinking outside, ever.

“They don’t like it. They will never like it. And they want it to be illegal; it isn’t illegal, at the moment, and they are very unhappy that the law isn’t changing fast enough.”

He wrote: “There is a smaller group of people who primarily don’t want to see people drinking outside if they are Eastern European, but are relaxed otherwise. I don’t have any time for those people.

“There are people who think that being asleep on a bench or on the grass is disgraceful and don’t want to see that either. The fact that it’s quite legal to lay on a bench or on the grass is not good enough and those people would like to see that banned too.

“Again, there’s a smaller group of people whose issue seems to be primarily the nationality of those who are asleep.”

He said the forthcoming PSPO will solve a number of the issues here “providing it is enforced.

“There is a part of me that wishes people would just talk to each other though.”

He said he had walked through the town and some of its parks over the weekend “and I cannot stress strongly enough how friendly the people I spoke to in the park were.

“Instead of feeling intimidated by people sitting on a bench, or drinking from a can, if people would just say: ‘Hi! Nice day, isn’t it?’ I think they’d be surprised how their outlook changed. But maybe that’s just my rose-tinted glasses at work again.”