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24 hour drinking hits the statute books

Views from interested parties

Extending hours alone will not solve the current problems expericed in many British towns and cities of excessive noise and disorder. To do this, we need an integrated approach to the control, management and regulation of licences and licensed premises.

We need planning and environmental regulations on the size of premises; we need pro-active policing to promote responsible stewardship; we need noise control and waste management measures, and effective sanctions against breaches of licensing controls.

We are urging the Government to move forward with a fully co-ordinated policy approach. To date they have misread the lessons from Europe on longer opening hours; have failed to integrate properly other environmental concerns; and will make a bad situation even worse because the local authorities and police will not be sufficiently funded.

Who will want to live or invest in our town and city centres in this situation? This Bill does not promote urban renaissance - and is more likely to drive people out.

Martin Bacon
Chief Executive, The Civic Trust

I think it's most unfortunate that the Bill was not subject to pre-legislative scrutiny as was the Communications Bill since it is quite apparent that Ministers were unwilling to budge even on issues where the case was very strong and there was cross party support - Undertakings is one example, and the issue which we concentrated on. Setting aside the content we now have an extremely long piece of legislation with a large number of associated attachments and I feel this will be a recipe for future litigation which cannot be in the interest of amenity, tenants and other groups or adjacent businesses who will not have the resources or time to contest matters properly. The whole thing raises the issue of legislation by civil servants who are not experts, are without personal experience, Ministers who are the same, within a system which has relied overwhelmingly on trade interests from the Better Regulation Stage, through the Parliamentary Beer Club Stage and where residents' groups have been deliberately excluded from the subsequent DCMS' two working groups.

David Bieda
Meard & Dean Street in Soho Residents' Association

We have been fighting to restrict the alcohol outlets in our community, because those that have opened recently have a monoculture of youth binge drinking, with all the anti-social behaviour that results. We have been singularly unsuccessful in this fight, and we do not see the new legislation as likely to improve that situation.

This is because the only evidence we can supply about the detriment to our community is on-street behaviour that can never be tied to a particular premises. We do not believe that returning to the magistrates' court for appeals will be in the interests of the communities concerned: we cannot afford to go to court, but the industry can.

Lesley Jefferies
Headingley Network Community Association

I am totally stunned at the way the government has forced the trade's bill through, refusing to listen to experts, or residents, and ignoring the evidence that deregulation damages communities. I have seen what has happened to Bath as a result of late licensing, and advise anyone living in earshot of a town centre pub to move now.

Sarah Webb
Bath City Councillor

NORA views with alarm the prospect of longer hours of opening of licensed premises in residential areas, because it could destroy whatever peace residents now enjoy after 11 pm every night of the week and weekend. Once one premises stays open into the early hours, they will all want it.

The other main worry is that the fees will not cover the total cost of the licensing process including supervision, policing, refuse collection and damage to property, so that the difference will fall onto the ratepayer.

Alan Shrank
NORA (National Organisation of Residents' Associations)

Blair's vision of a bright, young country innocently partying into the night will have the reality of a yob culture, free to destroy town and city living all night long.

Roger Rolfe
The Kingscliffe Society, Brighton

My own main reaction, having now for the first time in my life watched a Bill going through Parliament, is one of horror at the bland indifference the Government shows to inconvenient facts and arguments. Horror, too, at the emptiness of the idea of 'debate' when only a handful of people listen to the arguments, and then hundreds more flood into the chamber to vote blindly for the party line. One knew about these things in the abstract, of course, but to have to face them in reality is enormously depressing.

Robert Chambers
St John's Residents' Association, Bristol