Curbing sales of alcohol

Have your say on plans to strengthen FDC’s licensing powers. Residents are being encouraged to give their reaction to a proposal by Fenland District Council aimed at stemming the spread of off licences in Wisbech.

The council is seeking to introduce a new “cumulative impact” policy for licensing that would make it harder for businesses in the town centre to get permission to sell alcohol.

It launched a 12-week public consultation in December and is now gathering responses from the public.

Last Monday council officers gave a presentation on the proposal to Wisbech Town Council and further discussions will be held with the Chamber of Commerce and Pubwatch members over the next couple of weeks.

The proposal follows representations from Cambridgeshire police. It comes in response to widespread concern over the number of licensed establishments in the town, which is seen as exacerbating problems of street drinking, littering and other anti-social behaviour.

Councillor Kit Owen, Fenland District Council’s portfolio holder responsible for licensing, said: “Tackling this issue is not as simple as many people imagine. 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 new 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.

“These proposals would enable us to exercise tighter controls. We want to hear what people think about them.”

People have until March 8 to comment on the proposals. All the responses will be summarised and included in a report to FDC’s Licensing Committee. It will then submit a detailed report to the full council.

The proposed policy goes hand in hand with other recent joint initiatives aimed at tackling related issues.

Councillor David Oliver, FDC’s portfolio holder for Wisbech and community safety, said: “The wider problems are not ones that licensing or FDC can solve on our own. We are continuing to work closely with the police and other partners in the Community Safety Partnership to combat street drinking, rough sleeping and other alcohol-related problems.”

In December two new projects were launched - Fenland Business Against Crime (FenBAC) and Thumbs Up!. They are designed to coordinate the efforts of existing schemes such as Pubwatch and Shopwatch and encourage good practice in the overall management of businesses that sell alcohol.

To view the proposed “cumulative impact” policy and have your say online, go to www.fenland.gov.uk/article/6348/Cumulative-Impact-Policy-Consultation-for-Wisbech. Paper copies can be obtained in Fenland @ your service shops, at Fenland Hall business reception or from FDC’s Licensing team.