Mayhem descends on genteel resort

By David GreenRESIDENTS have voiced their fury after claiming the High Street of their genteel town was turned into a New Year's Day battleground with revellers fighting and smashing glasses.

By David Green

RESIDENTS have voiced their fury after claiming the High Street of their genteel town was turned into a New Year's Day battleground with revellers fighting and smashing glasses.

There was controversy simmering in Southwold yesterday following a decision by the landlord of the seaside town's Kings Head to stay open through the night following new year celebrations.

Residents claimed there were crowds making noise outside the pub all night, causing a disturbance, and alleged fighting had broken out at about 6.30am yesterday after the remaining customers were turned out, with a window smashed at a nearby house.

But Graham Dungey, the pub's landlord, said he was unaware of any fighting and insisted he had done all he could to retrieve glasses to avoid breakages on the streets.

"Overall it was a fantastic evening and a lot of people thoroughly enjoyed themselves without causing any trouble at all," he added.

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But John Miller, who lives 50 yards from the pub and is deputy mayor of Southwold, said trouble had been developing all night with crowds of young people drinking and making a great deal of noise outside the Kings Head.

"About 6.30am, just after the pub turned the remaining customers out, there was a group of about 15 youths fighting and rolling about in the street. Glasses were being smashed. It was an extraordinary sight for Southwold – mayhem," he added.

Mr Miller said he had collected up a sack of broken glass which he intended to present to the pub landlord with a request for an apology and a promise never to have such a long extension in the future.

"The new landlord has done a fantastic job at the pub, but I believe he was very foolish to keep serving drinks so late," he added.

Jane Bennett, another nearby resident, said her family and their guests had been disturbed by the noise from outside the pub throughout the night.

"We returned home about 1.20am and there were crowds drinking outside. Youths had pulled off one of the traffic bollards and were taking pictures of themselves with it," she added.

"There was a racket going on there throughout. The Kings Head has always been a quiet pub, but I feel keeping open all hours was bound to lead to trouble. It is appalling that we have to put up with this all-night noise in a residential area."

But Sue Allen, the Mayor of Southwold, said she had been in the pub up to about 1am and had seen no trouble.

"Most of the customers were local and we had a fantastic evening with a brilliant buffet. I think claims of trouble have been blown out of all proportion. It appears to have been New Year's revellers, perhaps getting just a bit out of hand," she added.

Mr Dungey said he believed claims of trouble had been exaggerated and added he had offered to pay for the repair of the window smashed at the nearby house.

During the night there had been two or three "heated exchanges" in the pub involving a handful of customers, he said, and at 6am, following the latest of them, he had decided to close.

The landlord said there were only 50 people left in the pub at that time and added: "I stood at the door collecting as many glasses as I could as people went out and I didn't see any fighting in the street."

Mr Dungey said he had asked police to routinely call in at various times during the night and officers had visited up to about 1.30am, finding no trouble at all to deal with.

"Under the new regulations pubs can stay open from 11am on New Year's Eve till 11pm on New Year's Day, although I think we were the only pub in Southwold to stay open through the night on this occasion," he added.

"Everyone tends to look at Southwold through rose-tinted glasses, but there are a lot of young people living in the town. It is a living town with families and young people as well as the retired. Not everyone is over 60."

A Suffolk police spokesman said he was unaware of any particular problems in Southwold yesterday and added: "Whatever happened there may have been out of the ordinary for such a quiet location."

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