Fenland District Council agrees tougher action to tackle street drinking in Wisbech

Jamie Cook presents his petition to Fenland District Council.
Jamie Cook presents his petition to Fenland District Council.

Mr Cook told the full council meeting the petition was not political and said: “Friends, family and neighbours are telling us they are worried, telling us they are scared.”

Mr Cook told the full council meeting the petition was not political and said: “Friends, family and neighbours are telling us they are worried, telling us they are scared.”

He said comments from those signing the petition included a mum who said: “I don’t want my children to be scared to go out and play in the park” and another man had told how his mother was afraid to go out shopping during. “That is not acceptable in 2017,” he said.

The petition had 2,293 signatures - gathered in just three weeks - and called for a town-wide ban on street drinking.

However, David Oliver, portfolio holder for community safety and heritage, said the council had already recognised street drinking was a problem in Wisbech, which is why it was introducing a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) covering three hotspots: Tillery Fields, St Peter’s Church Gardens and the memorial garden in The Crescent.

Coun Oliver said: “We have changed our approach following consultation on the PSPO to include Wisbech town centre. If issues arise, we and our partners have powers to tackle it.”

He highlighted the work already undertaken by the Alcohol Partnership for Wisbech, which included street drinking patrols and enforcement in hotspots, recovery walks - aimed at engaging with drinkers to find out why they are drinking and to offer them assistance.

Thanks to government funding an outreach worker is set to be appointed in the next few months to further engage with the drinkers.

Councillors unanimously agreed a motion which included five key ways of building on the work of the alcohol partnership. As well as the PSPO and fixed penalty notices the motion called for delivery of a Local Alcohol Action Area Programme which would help reduce sales of alcohol to drunk people and reduce the wider alcohol harm such as anti-social behaviour.

There were calls for progress to be monitored on a three-monthly basis but it was finally agreed it should be be reviewed after 12-months with the portfolio holder reporting “stats” in his regular updates.

Councillor Gavin Booth praised Mr Cook and his supporters and said: “Without this petition, street drinking wouldn’t have got up the agenda like it has today.”

He said people now need to feel that action is being taken, which is why he initially called for the three-monthly review which he later withdrew agreeing that as long as Coun Oliver included progress in his portfolio holder updates that would be sufficient.

The new PSPO, together with an alcohol action zone for the town centre, will come into force on October 20.