I was interested to see the recent article on licensing laws in the January 21 issue of Police Professional (see PP188, page 5). I have to say I agree with much of what was said in the article.
As a local councillor, while I welcome some of the measures being proposed to tackle problem drinking, I do not believe that it goes far enough. In my experience, and the experience of many of the residents I represent, the problems do not, in the main, stem from licensed pubs and clubs – but from supermarkets, petrol stations and convenience stores selling alcohol until two or three in the morning in residential areas.
As a councillor I am extremely frustrated that the law, as it currently stands, is weighted strongly in favour of presumption of approval to licensing alcohol outlets. If I wish to object to the issuing of a licence to any premise I am, of course, at liberty to do so, but approval is assumed unless there is compelling reasons why it shouldn’t be. This is not entirely surprising as, as I understand it, the alcohol industry helped to frame the law. In licensing a premise, the licensing authority (usually the local authority) cannot argue that further opportunity for alcohol consumption would be a contributor to further anti-social behaviour, although this flies in the face of the evidence we can see for ourselves across our towns and cities most nights of the week.
Similarly, over provision in a given geographical area is also not seen as a reason to deny approval from yet more outlets opening cheek by jowl with others. In the ward I represent there are no fewer than eight alcohol outlets in a stretch of around 200 yards of a residential street. This is madness. And with the potential for each of opening for 24 hours, this leads to further anti-social behaviour continuing long after most people have gone to sleep (as anybody but a fool could have predicted when our licensing laws were changed). At least city centre clubs and pubs are not, in the main, in close proximity to large numbers of residential properties. The idea, supported at the time of liberalising licensing, that the UK would adopt a ‘continental’ drinking culture, flies in the face of our history, culture and character. I think a review of licensing is long overdue – but the current proposals are nowhere near comprehensive enough, nor does it act as a sufficient deterrent to those whose desire to make a quick buck, rather than fulfil their community responsibility.
Councillor Mark Collins
Peterborough City Council
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