Hundreds of pubs set to open longer

MORE than half of the outlets licensed to sell alcohol across Suffolk and Essex are to extend their opening hours thanks to new legislation which comes into force today.

MORE than half of the outlets licensed to sell alcohol across Suffolk and Essex are to extend their opening hours thanks to new legislation which comes into force today.

But licensees in the region have adopted a prudent attitude in their applications for extensions, with only a handful taking advantage of 24-hour drinking.

The new legislation came into effect at midnight last night and has been met with a mixed reaction.

Under the new laws, all licensed premises had to reapply for their licence even if they did not want to extend drinking or serving hours.

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In Ipswich, of the 396 who re-applied for a license 208 were granted extensions - 113 of which were pubs, clubs or private members clubs.

Meanwhile, in Babergh, 320 licenses were renewed and the district council said approximately half had been granted extensions to opening hours.

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A total of 180 outlets were given permission to extend opening hours out of the 430 who re-applied for their license in Waveney. This included a 24-hour licence for the Broadlands Holiday Park.

Mid-Suffolk District Council has renewed a total of 290 licences, of which 86 of the outlets were granted extended opening hours including Tesco which received a 24-hour licence.

Suffolk Coastal District Council has renewed a total of 524 licences and out of those, 186 have been granted extensions to opening hours.

St Edmundsbury, which includes Bury St Edmunds and Haverhill, has processed 375 licensing applications of which 167 involve variations to previous licences.

Licensing officers estimate 80 percent of those involve extending drinking hours beyond the 11pm threshold.

Forest Heath District Council has issued 162 licences. In Mildenhall, Newmarket and Brandon and the surrounding villages, 78 pub or bar premises and eight clubs have applied for variations to their old licences.

However, officers were unable to say how many of these changes were extensions on hours.

In Colchester alone 517 licences have been awarded to premises and 658 to individuals. Of those, 208 were bids to change serving hours. About 20 premises in the borough have not applied for their licences on time.

In Tendring, 285 establishments have applied for extended licensing hours in the area - though none have gone for a 24-hour licence. That accounts for about 60% of the area's 517 pubs and clubs.

The most common applications for extended licenses involve requests to call time at the bar at midnight rather than 11pm.

Chief Superintendent Mark Cordell, of Suffolk police, said the changes in legislation would bring challenges for officers but said he was confident the force could meet these and continue to provide a safe environment for people enjoying a night out.

“A considerable amount of work has already been completed in partnership with the local councils and licensees to ensure that the transition to extended licensing hours runs as smoothly as possible,” he said.

“In partnership with the police, the local councils will be responsible for ensuring that licensed premises are run in accordance with the new act and the accompanying regulations.

“We will of course continue to deal with any incidents of anti-social behaviour, disorder or violence emanating from licensed premises.”

Ch Supt Cordell said the police and local councils had numerous new powers to deal with premises that persistently caused problems.

“We will continue to increase the volume of uniformed officers in key locations and at key times. This will not only offer a reassuring presence but also detect and deter any criminal activity,” he said.

“We are not trying to stop anyone from having fun and welcome those who are out to enjoy the facilities that Suffolk provides. However, we will not tolerate those that cause a disruption and those that do so will be dealt with within the full extent of the law.”

West Suffolk MP Richard Spring he was opposed to the new extension in drinking hours.

“In theory, it's a liberalising measure but if we have a major problem in Suffolk then it is excessive drinking leading to violence and anti-social behaviour.

“I'm constantly being written to by my constituents about drink induced anti-social behaviour. This will exasperate the problem.”

But Ipswich MP Chris Mole said there were a whole range of new powers to clamp down on establishments that caused problems in their neighbourhood or alcohol abuse.

“It's only over a period of time that we will see the second part of the new powers making a difference as people begin to raise objections to licenses based on their experiences,” he said.

“I welcome the initiative the police launched last week to clamp down on people who are drunk and disorderly in town.

“I think that's an important part of sending a message that the Government is allowing clubs to have more flexibility opening because it wants people to enjoy a drink but do so responsibly.”

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