Town plans tough action on drinkers
By Ted JeoryTOWN centre drinkers could be fined and have their alcohol confiscated in a tough new crackdown on anti-social behaviour.Braintree District Council could soon become one of the few authorities in East Anglia to invoke a special bylaw giving it the power to designate alcohol-free zones in town centres.
By Ted Jeory
TOWN centre drinkers could be fined and have their alcohol confiscated in a tough new crackdown on anti-social behaviour.
Braintree District Council could soon become one of the few authorities in East Anglia to invoke a special bylaw giving it the power to designate alcohol-free zones in town centres.
The council is applying to Home Secretary David Blunkett for permission to introduce the ban around the Fountain and St Michael's churchyard in Braintree.
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The move comes after a stream of angry complaints from businesses and residents who claimed troublemakers were plaguing the area.
Under the proposed bylaw, Essex Police would have the power to confiscate alcohol from anyone found drinking in public as well as issue fines.
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If the application is successful, Braintree District Council will become the third local authority in Essex to introduce the new bylaw, which would come into effect by the end of the financial year.
More than £500,000 of funding has been secured for the anti-social behaviour crackdown, which will also see more resources ploughed into tackling litter and fly-tipping.
In a report for Monday's council cabinet meeting, officers claimed the public considered Braintree to be generally free of alcohol problems.
But they urged councillors to push for the special bylaw for the Fountain and St Michael's churchyard area and suggested if it proved successful, it could be extended elsewhere in the district.
Wendy Schmitt, the council's portfolio holder for public protection, said yesterday: “This particular area is fairly easily definable to monitor, so we'll be able to see how the bylaw works and we'll then look to see if it should be introduced elsewhere.
“We're not saying that Braintree has a major problem with drinking in public places, but we want to nip the problem in the bud with the ban.
“It is a message that this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated - we just hope that it engenders civic pride in the area.”
Braintree District Council's move follows successful experiments in Southend and Chelmsford and Terry Allen, leader of Tendring District Council, and Colin Sykes, leader of Colchester Borough Council, said they would be “interested” in watching what happens.
Mr Allen said: “There are plenty of areas in Clacton, Walton and even Frinton where I'd like to see similar bans.
“There's enough places for people to drink already without taking their habits outdoors.”
Mr Sykes added: “I think it's definitely something that we will be looking at, but it must have support from all parties.”
A spokesman for Essex Police said they supported the Braintree District Council move and added: “We are keen for councils to take any measures that tackle town centre drunkenness and public nuisance.”