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Police’s experiment to tackle night-time trouble in Norwich

PUBLISHED: 08:35 08 September 2014 | UPDATED: 08:35 08 September 2014

Police attending the scene of minor brawl out on Prince of Wales road, Norwich.

Police attending the scene of minor brawl out on Prince of Wales road, Norwich.

Archant

A new drive to cut alcohol-fuelled violence and anti-social behaviour in the heart of Norwich will get underway next week, with the introduction of experimental road closures and extra police officers to tackle problems.

Prince of Wales’ poor reputation

It was once dubbed by a senior police officer as “the most dangerous street in Norfolk”, and it has long been a place where young people head for a good night out - but where the fun sometimes descends into violence and anti-social behaviour.

People living in roads nearby have long complained about the noise and about people being sick or urinating in their gardens, while policing the city’s clubland area has given Norfolk Constabulary a headache.

Police resources have been swallowed up trying to deal with the assaults, fights and anti-social behaviour which happens in the area.

Work has been taken place with responsible bar and club owners to help the situation, but statistics show that since 2005, when pubs and clubs were allowed to open longer, there has been a 210% increase in violent crime in Norwich between 3am and 6am and an increase in police hours of 12,000 per year.

Police have been working with Norwich City Council to come up with a solution and the city council’s new action plan is the latest attempt to ease the problems.

Council leader Brenda Arthur has also written to the government urging them to take action on the cost and availability of alcohol, specifically minimum pricing.

And police are pulling together evidence of the problems they have to face when policing Norwich’s clubbing district which could see a cumulative impact policy brought in.

That would mean the city council would have tighter controls on when, and where, clubs and pubs can open.

Earlier this year, Norwich City Council agreed a string of measures to tackle problems in and around Prince of Wales Road and Riverside.

Experimental road closures were among the measures agreed, to stop noise and anti-social behaviour caused by people waiting for private hire vehicles in Cathedral Street, St Faiths Lane and Recorder Road.

Private hire vehicles would instead be allowed to park in some bus lanes in Castle Meadow instead – which would channel drinkers away from the residential areas.

The city council says the noise from clubbers waiting to be picked up from pre-booked taxis and from doors slamming and radios causes “considerable disturbance” for people living in the streets nearby.

Police will start enforcing the road closures from Friday next week, with vehicles banned from the streets from 11pm on Friday and Saturday nights to 6am on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Initially, drivers will be informed by police that they cannot go down the roads, unless they live there. But after a period of grace, those who refuse to obey the ban can be hit with a £100 fine and three points on their licences.

The order is initially for 18 months, but could become permanent if it is deemed a success, while it can also be varied or terminated at short notice.

Superintendent Dave Marshall, Norwich policing commander, said: “We will staff the barriers and offer guidance for the first few weeks and after that we will look at enforcement action.

“We don’t want to have to issue them, but it is a fantastic opportunity to support what people who live there want.”

And police have earmarked £100,000, which is paying for an extra sergeant and six officers on Saturday nights, swelling the number of officers on nightly weekend duty in the clubbing area to nearly 40 officers.

A further measure due to come into effect are new CCTV cameras. Those will be installed in Bank Plain, which police acknowledge is currently a ‘blind spot’, and in Cathedral Street/St Faiths Lane.

Following a suggestion from one of the people who lives off Prince of Wales Road, posters are also being put up in the residential roads reminding club-goers that people are trying to sleep in the area.

Gail Harris, the city council’s cabinet member for customer services, said: “It’s always hard to balance the needs of a vibrant city with the needs of the community, but we are trying and we are listening.

“The experimental road closures gives us the chance to respond to what people are saying and what we find for ourselves.”

Other measures, which form part of the action plan, include:

• In the long-term, banning general traffic from Prince of Wales Road.

• Gating orders – where access to public rights of way can be stopped to prevent crime or anti-social behaviour.

• Providing public toilets at the proposed £5.5m multi-storey car park in Mountergate.

• Introducing taxi marshalling.

• Promoting a designated driver scheme.

• Working with the licensed trade to explore how they can make toilets available at the end of the evening.

Council leader Brenda Arthur has also written to the government urging them to take action on the cost and availability of alcohol, specifically minimum pricing.

And police are pulling together evidence of the problems they have to face when policing Norwich’s clubbing district which could see a cumulative impact policy brought in.

That would mean the city council would have tighter controls on when, and where, clubs and pubs can open.

• Are you put off from going into the city centre at weekends? Tell us your views by writing, including full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

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