Councillors say city centre needs policy to crack down on nuisance

Councillors have criticised recommendations to scrap a proposed policy that would crack down on nuisance in the city centre.

Thursday, 26th September 2019, 4:38 pm
Updated Monday, 30th September 2019, 7:23 pm

City Ward councillors Douglas Johnson, Martin Phipps and Ruth Mersereau say they are ‘disappointed’ with officers’ recommendation to deny a cumulative impact policy until there is more evidence of antisocial behaviour.

Coun Johnson said: “Residents and businesses around West Street have been experiencing daily problems with street drinkers and begging for money.

“Some residents have experienced serious intimidation. The sale of cheap, high-strength alcohol from early in the morning is not the only issue but it is a factor which makes the problem worse.

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“In the last three years, we have seen several new off-licenses open. We have supported residents to ask for a cumulative impact policy. This would force any new applications for off-licences to prove that they would not add to the problem.

“There is a lot of really good work being done by lots of different agencies working on the front line with some very vulnerable people who cause a disproportionate amount of anti-social behaviour.”

The cumulative impact policy would cover an area including the main city centre streets such as West Street, Barkers Pool, Glossop Road and Division Street.

It would work by putting an assumption against granting a licence to sell alcohol in venues like pubs and clubs if there has been a lot of disorder in the area.

The idea was brought to the licensing committee in October last year following a number of complaints from residents, local businesses and councillors about a negative impact of licensed venues.

At the time, members expressed a concern that the implementation of a CIA may lead to the problems of anti-social behaviour being moved into another area. They decided to carry out a consultation before returning with another report.

In the latest report various authorities and groups gave evidence.

South Yorkshire Police said that recorded offences had increased in the area over the past three years while volumes of anti social behaviour had fallen. They added that rowdy and inconsiderate behaviour was the most commonly recorded type of anti social behaviour and theft was the most common crime.

However, police sergeant Matthew Burdett, Sheffield city centre business improvement district officer, said he does not believe a cumulative impact assessment is required and that ‘the city centre is one of the safest in the country’.

Helen Philips-Jackson, strategic commissioning manager for drugs and alcohol at DACT (domestic abuse co-ordination team), said: “The data we have provided indicates that there is a disproportionate presence of licensed premises in the area under consideration, and the most prohibitive to health and wellbeing and protection of vulnerable people are the presence of numerous 24 hour or late opening, cheap alcohol retail outlets and provision of cheap licensed premises.

“There is a high concentration of support services for vulnerable people in and around the area under consideration for the cumulative impact area and the availability and price of alcohol impacts on their behaviours due to its accessibility. Police data also shows that there is a concentration of alcohol related anti-social behaviour and offending in the centre of Sheffield which can be linked to the availability of cheap alcohol.”

Coun Phipps added: “Addiction is a complex health problem and many of the people exhibiting anti-social behaviour on West Street will have a complex set of circumstances, needing appropriate help. A lack of regulation of the number of off-licenses selling cheap, high-strength alcohol on West Street only exacerbates the problem.”

The report was set to be discussed at a licensing committee meeting on Monday, September 30 from 10am but has been postponed to give members more time to consider late information.