Town street alcohol ban under discussion

SIPPING a drink al fresco could come to an end in Ipswich unless you stay within strict roped-off areas.Banning the drinking of alcohol on some Ipswich streets is being considered as one of a raft of ideas to cut town centre violence.

SIPPING a drink al fresco could come to an end in Ipswich unless you stay within strict roped-off areas.

Banning the drinking of alcohol on some Ipswich streets is being considered as one of a raft of ideas to cut town centre violence.

The Evening Star can reveal that early discussions are underway between the authorities to see if banning on alcohol from the streets is necessary in designated areas.

Both Pubwatch and Clubwatch schemes are debating the idea and many others together with Suffolk Police representatives and Ipswich Borough Council.

Borough officer Rachel Metson, of the town's crime reduction panel, said the drinking ban was a possibility being considered under the Nightsafe Ipswich banner, which aims to make the town's nightlife safer.

Designated areas are under discussion in response to the newly-introduced Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001, which was designed to combat crime and disorder on the streets.

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Since the law was passed, officials have been looking into ways of putting it into practice.

Under the new law, police get new powers to deal with antisocial drinking in designated areas so officers can seize unsealed alcohol.

It is not an offence itself to drink alcohol in a designated public place but if you do not hand it over when asked by police, you can be arrested and fined.

Along with fellow panel member Pc Steve Hudson, Ms Metson will look into the level of problems that drinking on the streets causes this summer - if town bosses allow to this research to take place.

She said: "There is a huge amount of work going on to reduce violence and alcohol-related violence in Ipswich town centre.

"We may find that a drinking ban is like using a sledge hammer to crack a nut. People drinking on the streets may be not sufficient to cause a problem. They might not be causing a nuisance or a disorder."

Ms Metson said banning drinking in public parks would probably not be possible because it would present a problem for open-air concerts like Orchestrelle in Christchurch Park.

Chelmsford and Manchester have already banned alcohol from some streets, and Pc Hudson said: "In Bury St Edmunds a bylaw which bans drinking on the streets is considered to have been successful in addressing the problems they have had there."

Chairman of Pubwatch Michael Collins, from PJ McGinty's, said: "I think it would be a marvellous thing for Ipswich, and no other licensees I've spoken to have thought otherwise. I am all for anyone caught with a bottle of alcohol being fined £500 on the spot."

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The partnership was formed in response to Ipswich's rapid growth in the leisure sector.

The number of licensed premises in the town centre has doubled over the past four years.

More than 10,000 people use these facilities on a typical Friday or Saturday night.

The development bonanza has also brought a surge in violent crime.

Between April and October 2000 63 per cent of violent crime was related to nightclubs, and 40pc was alcohol-related.

Many organisations and businesses have now signed up to the Nightsafe Ipswich strategy.

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