A heated debate took place yesterday afternoon regarding a proposed Cumulative Impact Policy to control the number of alcohol licenses issued for a defined areas within Wrexham, which resulted in one group of councillors seeking legal advice.
At a meeting of Wrexham Council’s executive board councillors David Taylor and John Pritchard put forward a motion calling on members to consider introducing a cumulative impact policy to address concerns of residents traders and visitors that licensing objectives were not being met.
It follows concerns from traders and residents regarding alcohol fuelled anti-social behaviour in the town centre and widespread opposition to a proposed off licence on Chester Street, which was rejected last week.
Cllr Taylor told members that since April 2010 approximately 90 licensing bodies had adopted a Cumulative Impact Policy.
He said: “Anti-social behaviour has increased significantly over the last year in a number of places and members of the public feel we have reached saturation point in terms of licensed premises.”
But Cllr Hugh Jones Lead Member for Communities, Partnerships & Collaboration challenged the motion claiming that there was already such an assessment in place within the council’s licensing policy.
“I need to challenge the basis of this motion, there is a tendency to take individual incidents and blow them out of proportion and paint Wrexham as something that it isn’t, crime in Wrexham is down and so are the number of alcohol licences granted.
“Paragraph 17 of the council’s licensing policy already contains a cumulative impact assessment.”
Cllr Arfon Jones disputed that such a policy was already held by the council
Deputy Leader of the Council Mark Pritchard accused councillors Taylor and Pritchard of putting the motion forward for “political reasons” but later withdrew the comment.
He said: “This is not the answer to all evils in town and I’m disappointed that this town is being portrayed as having a bigger problem than it does.
“We are doing a review of licensing and don’t want a kneejerk reaction based on this proposal. There are 300 licensed premises in the county borough and I don’t think there is a saturation.”
Cllr William Baldwin, who has a barber shop in the town centre disagreed with Cllr Pritchard, he said: “I come to work and park my car in the Welsh chapel and this morning at the bottom of the steps were a group of lads drinking alcohol.
“By saying we haven’t got a problem it’s not going to go away. After the Town Centre Forum today a group of men drinking on a bench outside the window had to be moved.”
Councillors eventually agreed to withdraw the motion pending an ongoing review of the licensing policy.
Speaking after the meeting Councillor David Bithell, Leader of the Wrexham Independent Group who brought forward the motion said: “Despite the comments from some Lead Members that we already have a active cumulative impact policy, this we believe is incorrect, we do have the option in our current policy to consider an impact policy but this would require significant consultation and approval in accordance with 17.3 of the policy which was approved by full council in February 2011.
“I am shocked that the Deputy Leader of the council Cllr Pritchard made comments that we were playing politics. What members of our group raised were concerns on excessive drinking in the town centre and how best to address the problem, if that is playing politics as elected councillors then so be it.
“Maybe Cllr Pritchard needs to walk around the town and see for himself the problems people face on a daily basis. We are now taking legal advice on some of the comments made at the meeting.”
Does Wrexham have a pre-existing Cumulative Impact Policy?
Paragraph 17.1 of the licensing policy indicates that cumulative impact can be taken into consideration when deciding whether to approve a licence application, it states:
“17.1 The Licensing Authority may receive representations from either a responsible authority or an interested party that the cumulative impact of new licenses is leading to an area becoming saturated with premises of a certain type, making it a focal point for large groups of people to gather, and thereby creating exceptional problems of disorder and nuisance over and above the impact from the individual premises themselves. In such cases the issue of cumulative impact can be taken into account when considering the individual merits of any application.”
However, Paragraph 17.3 appears to be in contradiction with this suggesting that whilst the licensing authority has the ability to consider whether to introduce such a policy, one does not currently exist:
“The Licensing Authority will take the following steps when considering whether to adopt a special saturation policy:
· Identification of a serious concern from a responsible authority or representative of residents about nuisance and disorder
· where it can be demonstrated that disorder and nuisance is arising as a result of customers from licensed premises, identifying the area from which problems are arising and the boundaries of that area
· assessing the causes
· adopting a policy about future licence applications from that area”