Licensing failures

PUBLISHED: 11:40 13 March 2008 | UPDATED: 13:05 06 May 2010

SIR, — So the Government s review of the Licensing Act has taken place. It transpires that the hoped-for café culture hasn t materialised at all. Far from it. In fact reported alcohol-related crime and anti-social behaviour in the middle of the night have

SIR, - So the Government's review of the Licensing Act has taken place. It transpires that the hoped-for café culture hasn't materialised at all. Far from it. In fact reported alcohol-related crime and anti-social behaviour in the middle of the night have increased. Accident and Emergency hospital admissions are up putting yet more unnecessary pressure on the NHS. Police resources are stretched so as to cover more night-time patrols, but at what cost? People are simply drinking more - and drinking later.

Yet Ministers and St Albans District Council appear almost in denial as to what is happening. In St Albans, applications to stay open into the small hours continue to be made as pubs and restaurants play catch-up with each other and thus close around the same time - something the Act was supposed to help stagger. The city's weekly planning lists regularly contain applications for yet more restaurants and takeaways, usually at the expense of a shop. Licence applications follow with later opening hours sought. And so it goes on.

Letters of objection from residents to applications frequently give hair-raising accounts of unruly goings-on. Being out late in the city, especially at weekends, can be an unsettling experience.

Nevertheless, at licensing hearings councillors have generally dismissed residents' concerns and have granted almost everything asked for by pubs and restaurants. The establishment seems to require a signed confession from the person(s) seen and heard shouting outside your house or peeing on your doorstep as to which premises they have come from.

No easy task that - and they know it.

The Licensing Act is supposed to be about the prevention of noise, nuisance, crime and disorder. Our council apparently takes the line that to resist applications might lead to an appeal; appeals cost money, so best wait until problems arise and then perhaps take action. Meanwhile not only must you put up with the situation, but face the hassle of proving it. Hardly a level playing field for residents. It's something to ask candidates about when they come knocking at election time. Remind me now, whom do councillors represent?

ERIC ROBERTS,

St Albans Civic Society.

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