Pub and club monitoring scheme measuring up well

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A SCHEME set up to monitor the number of pubs and bars operating within close proximity to each other has been given a clean bill of health.

Member of the council’s cabinet committee met on Monday to discuss the second review of the Special Saturation Policy.

The scheme was first introduced in January 2008.

It established zones in Hastings new town, Old Town and central St Leonards where a licence to serve alcohol would not be granted.

The onus lies on the applicant to prove that granting a licence would not cause anti-social behaviour and late night disturbance.

Every 30 months the council carries out a review of the scheme.

A report was drafted by the borough’s licensing manager Bob Brown. He stated that a consultation period was started on August 13.

All but one of the seven responses received supported the need for three separate saturation zones.

Sussex Police reported an increase in violent crime associated with the night-time economy between 8pm and 4am.

The force strongly believes that if the policy stops, night-time economy-related crime will increase in Hastings.

NHS Sussex stated there was a ‘picture of significant alcohol problems in Hastings’ which added weight to keeping the policy.

Hastings Old Town Residents Association asked for an extension to the Old Town saturation zone to cover the whole area.

A problem had been encountered recently at large events where alcohol was brought into the area from out of town.

The Jack-in-the-Green Committee fully supported the zones.

Hastings and St Leonards Town Centre management said the early evening economy needed support to grow and the late night economy needed tighter control.

It also mentioned the rise of a ‘new breed of off licences’ and the need to encourage applicants to take advantage of the growing student market.

The committee agreed to retain the policy.

Councillor Peter Chowney, lead member for regeneration, said: “My concern was the effect the policy was having on the evening economy.

“I am assured it does not have any impact. It possibly benefits the economy.”

Mr Brown told the Observer: “On the issue of the off licences, several respondents raised concerns over the rise in numbers of small convenience type shops selling alcohol and the rise in illegal and duty evaded alcohol. We acknowledge that the numbers of small off licences has increased and are working with partner agencies to ensure that breaches of the act are investigated quickly.

“Several such premises have recently had their licences revoked following trading standards operations.”