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Council approves crackdown on Croydon's booze trade

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A CRACKDOWN on booze which will see new off-licences open only in "genuinely exceptional circumstances" has been approved in areas of Croydon with alcohol-fuelled problems. The town centre will be subject to tighter licensing controls and parts of Brighton Road, London Road, Thornton Heath and New Addington have been designated cumulative impact zones (CIZs). This gives the council increased powers to curb the spread of licensed premises when concerns are raised about crime and disorder. The radical policy could have included 17 of 24 wards, making it the largest such crackdown in the country. Instead smaller, more targeted zones were approved at a council meeting on Monday. Esther Sutton, landlady of The Oval Tavern and chairman of Pubwatch, welcomed the decision to scale-back the policy. "There is a wide feeling that these measures are anti-business," she said. "The pub trade needs every opportunity going, and the opinion of many licensees is that CIZs would hamper growth. "Pubwatch has been repeatedly reassured that Croydon's CIZs are aimed at off-licences. "We hope the police and council continue to take into consideration the duty of care and due diligence exercised by the majority of pubs and clubs in the new zones when looking at new licence applications." The council's new licensing policy means the presumption will be to reject all licence applications – including amendments to existing agreements such as extending hours – unless the pub, club or shopkeeper can prove their business will not add to existing problems. The zones have been imposed in areas with alcohol-related crime and antisocial behaviour, large numbers of existing premises and where statistics show higher levels of hospital admissions connected to booze. Licence applications are automatically approved if the council receives no objections and, under the former policy, if concerns were raised there was a presumption for them to be passed unless there were strong reasons not to. The onus will now be on rejecting licence applications when the council receives concerns about cumulative impact. That includes a "presumption against granting" licences or variations to venues uses as cafés, takeaways or mobile food vans providing late night refreshment. The strict new approach will also be used when considering proposals for nightclubs. However, the new policy allows the council to give "special consideration" to "encouraging more diverse types of premises" such as clubs aimed at over 21s, live music or restaurants, or venues which supported the creation of a 'cultural quarter'. The four CIZs are: Brighton Road from South End to the Royal Oak Centre in Purley; three sections of London Road from West Croydon to Norbury; Brigstock Road and Thornton Heath High Street; and Central Parade in New Addington. There will be a presumption to refuse applications when concerns are raised in these areas. The council describes the policy as "strict" and only to be overridden in "genuinely exceptional circumstances". South Norwood High Street and Portland Road, as well as Lower Addiscombe Road, are not included despite being recognised as having issues with booze. These roads and have been designated "special stress areas" but could become CIZs if problems continue. Mark Watson, Labour's spokesman for public safety, questioned the zones. He said: "CIZs are a blunt tool to tackle problem drinking and I'm not absolutely convinced they will have the desired effect."The evidence behind Croydon's cumulative impact zones - Out of 326 local authorities in England, Croydon is ranked 28th worst for all alcohol related crimes - Over the last three years the number of alcohol related ambulance call outs in Croydon has increased from 1,947 in 2010-11 to 2,493 in 2012-13 - Croydon has the sixth highest call outs in London - Seven per cent of Croydon residents who drink do so at higher risk levels - There has been a 12% increase in the number of off-licences in Croydon in the last seven years, compared to a 20% decrease in pubs - A recent survey by Croydon BID found 28% of shoppers thought street drinking was a problem in the town centre, 5% of whom thought it was a priority to improve - In contrast 71% of businesses thought it needed to be improved as a matter of priority

Council approves crackdown on Croydon's booze trade


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