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Council Agrees Action Plan for Alcohol-Related Crime in Epsom Town Centre (but still agrees later licensing hours)

January 30, 2012 4:56 PM
Epsom Town centre
The ludicrousness of Borough Council decisions associated with Licensing and Planning matters was exposed at a meeting of its Environment Committee on 23rd January. The meeting agreed that Epsom Town Centre should become the focus of a Community Safety Action Plan for one year, yet only a week earlier an Epsom-based club gained permission to extend its licensing hours from 2am.
Even more surprising is that the Police and the council's own Planning Department had objected to the extension - the Police on the grounds of potential disturbance to residents and the Planning Department because it had already refused permission for the same establishment to extend its hours of operation.
Epsom Town centre ranks amongst the highest areas for alcohol related disorder in the county. It regularly stands in the top 16% in the country for incidences of crime per 1000 of population. The premises which was granted the extension is not, in itself, known to cause crime or disorder issues but an ever-increasing population of town centre residents are demanding the right to undisturbed sleep and are already faced with between 100 and 200 anti-social behaviour offences each month, around half of which are alcohol-related.
"Judgement on the recent licence extension was put in the hands of three councillors, two of whom live in West Ewell and one in Stoneleigh", said Lib Dem Cllr Julie Morris. "One has to doubt their competence to pass judgement on Epsom issues, given the long history of problems in the town centre. On the one hand the council recognises there is a problem and the Action Plan will work toward trying to reduce some of the alcohol-related crime, but on the other hand the Licensing Committee is still giving permission for later and later hours for alcohol sales even though the Police and the Planning Committee object."
The Liberal Democrats say that Epsom-based clubs are playing the system. They get a Planning refusal to extend their hours of operation, separately gain permission for an alcohol licence, then appeal against the Planning refusal. Another club is likely to apply to renew its licence soon. Enforcement of licences and hours of operation comes at a huge cost to the council, with a resulting fine for breaching any conditions only £1000.
The photograph shows the centre of town with flats overlooking the area where late-night disturbances regularly occur. More housing is under construction in Station Approach and The Parade, both within yards of this area.