Gazette readers will be aware that Canterbury Councillors backed a proposal by St Mildred’s Area Community Society (SMACS) to close the Dane John Gardens between 11.00pm and 4.00am. AsCouncillor for Westgateward,I fully support the trial closure. Residents of the Gardens and others in the vicinity are subjected to excessive noise and other disturbances, often throughout the night. The current situation is not fair on residents and council tax payers who live in that area. Hopefully the closure will protect residents against some of the worst behaviour in Canterbury at night.
However, closing the Gardens is not a solution to the wider problems caused by Canterbury’s so-called “night-time economy”. These problemsofteninclude criminal damage to private and commercial premises. The burden of dealing with thisis felt by hard-pressed public services, particularly the Police, ambulance and accident & emergency services. As well asalcohol fuelledcriminal andanti-social behaviour, the proliferation of late-night takeaways has increased the amount of litter and food waste on the streets of my ward and in parts of it there is now a serious problem with rats.
The Kentish Gazette reported on 3/1/2019 (page 10) that the Home Office has identified 222 “alcohol disorder hotspots” across the country and that Canterbury is one of these. Under existing legislation local authorities can make pubs, night-clubs and late-night takeaways pay a levy to fund the cost of extra policing. This is a voluntary scheme with no requirement that local Councils introduceit.Very few Councils have done so and Canterbury City Council has not.The Council should now consider introducing the levy especially as thenationalGovernment is consideringmakingitcompulsory.
The Police are struggling to police the “night-time economy” in Canterbury and a compulsory levy on late-night establishments would provide more money towards policing costs. However,the fundamentalproblemis that the 2003 Licensing Act was misguided and needs to be reformed. There should be much tougher regulation of which premises can obtain late-night licences and a significant reduction in the number of them. We also need more restrictionson the availability of alcohol, including minimum pricing, to discourage excessive binge drinking.
In Canterbury the Conservative administration should admit that it has allowed the current situation to develop without sufficient regulation and that it isblighting the lives of local residents and council tax payers. The “night-time economy” has been encouraged in the misguided belief that any business is good business. The current situation benefits only a very small number of business owners at the expense of thousands of local residents. In addition, the majority of jobs in the “night-time economy” are badly paid ones with poor future prospects. Canterbury City Council must adopt a much tougher and more restrictive approach tofuture applications forlate-night licences.It must not be afraid to revoke existing licences if there is evidence that the establishment is contributing towards criminal or anti-social behaviour.A