Wisbech people given chance to join war on street-drinking as council considers impact policy

THE people of Wisbech have been given the chance to join the war on street-drinking by backing a council policy which would make it harder to get a licence to sell alcohol.

Police have asked Fenland District Council to consider adopting a Cumulative Impact Policy for Wisbech, which has been plagued by street-drinking, public urination and anti-social behaviour.

The town centre has more than 70 licensed premises - and the policy would force new off-licences to prove that their store would not add to existing problems.

Sergeant Dave Bax, licensing officer for Fenland, said: “At the moment there is the presumption that licences will be granted unless there are issues.

“This policy would reverse that presumption so that no licences would be granted unless they could prove that it would not add to the cumulative problems.”

Residents have until March 8 to give their views on the policy.

Sgt Bax said: “Normally our officers deal with between three and 10 street drinking incidents every day in Wisbech - seizing alcohol, moving people on and making arrests when needed. It does put a strain on resources but that’s our job.

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“It’s time for us to say to the off-licences: ‘you’re fuelling these problems by selling high-strength alcohol, what are you going to do about it?’

“If people feel that there is a problem in Wisbech then I would urge them to put their point across in this consultation.”

Sgt Bax also hit out at off-licences that sell “rocket fuel” - single bottles and cans of high-strength alcohol which are the popular choice among street-drinkers.

Councillor Kay Mayor, chairman of the council’s licensing committee, said the new policy would enable them to exercise “tighter controls”.

“Tackling the spread of off-licences is not as simple as many people imagine,” she said.

“Currently licensing law dictates that individual applications to sell alcohol can only be refused if specific objections are raised and if it can be proved that granting any particular application will have a negative impact on the area. Otherwise the application must be granted.

“If approved, this policy will mean that anyone applying for a licence to sell alcohol in the designated ‘cumulative impact’ area will have to demonstrate that it will NOT have a negative effect. In other words, the burden of proof will be reversed.

“It is important for us to hear what people think of our proposals.”

To download the Cumulative Impact Policy response form, visit www.fenland.gov.uk