Police hit out at North Walsham Town Council bid for all-week, alcohol licence

Photo: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

Photo: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire - Credit: PA

A bid to sell booze in North Walsham's main outdoor areas has hit fierce opposition from police and environmental health chiefs.

North Walsham Town Council has applied for a licence allowing it to sell alcohol seven days a week, from 9am to 11pm, in Market Place and the Memorial Park.

Councillors would also like a local brewery to be able to sell beer to revellers at the Queen's birthday family picnic planned for St Nicholas' churchyard on June 12.

But police say the move would 'severely undermine' eight years' successful work to curb street drinking and associated anti-social behaviour in the town.

Sgt Michael Beard says the number of alcohol-related crimes in the key areas has plummeted since Designated Public Place Orders (DPPOs) were introduced in 2008, giving police powers to control street drinking and confiscate alcohol if they judged it necessary.

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And North Norfolk District Council's (NNDC) environmental health chief James Wilson says he has 'significant concerns' about the town council's application to vary its premises licence.

But town council clerk Nick Clancy says its intentions have been misunderstood and the licence would only be used for occasional events, mostly in summer, such as the annual Fun Day.

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'We're trying to save taxpayers' money and cut down on the time it takes for staff to fill in forms,' said Mr Clancy.

At present the council had to apply for a £21 temporary event licence for every event involving alcohol sales.

These included the monthly Sunday farmers' markets, in Market Place.

A trial period of twice-monthly markets is under way. The second of three takes place this Sunday.

The all-embracing licence the town council had applied for would cost £70, and mean much less red tape for staff.

'We're not talking about running a permanent bar! It would literally be for things like the beer tent at the Fun Day, maybe something on bank holidays - that sort of event. The application might be covering us for every day but we're not talking about using it every day,' added Mr Clancy, who plans to try and answer concerns in person when the application is discussed by NNDC's licensing sub committee on May 3.

The police's objection to the licence says in the year from December 2006 to December 2007 - before the introduction of the DPPO - there were 153 alcohol-related crimes in the park and Market Place, and 118 calls to the police about alcohol-related anti-social behaviour.

In the past year there had been 18 alcohol-related incidents within the park, Market Place and churchyard which were the town locations with the most problems.

'This shows that the DPPO has had a dramatic effect in reducing alcohol-related problems,' Sgt Beard says in his report to the sub-committee.

At present police could easily identify and target drinkers breaching the DPPO.

But, by creating a 'socially acceptable' brand of street drinking, the police's job would become much more difficult.

Sgt Beard added that he would not object to 'one-off events' making use of temporary event applications.

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