Clampdown on opening hours will not solve booze problem

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Restricting opening hours at off-licences in Blackpool will not prevent the resort’s most hardened alcoholics from buying booze, a support worker has warned.

Denise Boehme, support services manager for The Ashley Foundation which helps homeless people in the town, many of whom are addicts, says people with a severe addiction will still track down drink.

She was commenting in the wake of moves by retailer Tesco Express to extend the licensing hours at two of its stores.

It wants to sell booze from 6am at its outlet in Ansdell Road and from 7am at its store in Whitegate Drive. Both currently cannot sell alcohol before 8am.

Ms Boehme said: “I’m not condoning them selling alcohol at 6am, but the availability is already there.

“We already have garages and supermarkets selling alcohol 24-hours.

“Alcohol is a big problem in Blackpool and some people will see these applications as encouraging people to drink more.

“But the reality is that if you have a chronic alcohol problem, you will find somewhere to buy it from whether that’s on the street corner, or you have to walk a mile.”

The Ashley Foundation operates eight homes across Blackpool, as well as support services for people struggling with a variety of issues including drug and alcohol or mental health problems.

Ms Boehme added: “In our hostels no alcohol is allowed.

“But if someone is a chronic alcoholic they will buy it and stash it away somewhere for when they want a drink.

“If someone will not give up their alcohol, what we do is try to encourage them to make it more manageable, by not binge drinking for example.

“We do have successes with people who do reduce their alcohol and drugs intake, and we work with them to make it as safe as possible,.”

Police, health chiefs and residents are among those objecting to the proposals by Tesco.

As reported in The Gazette this week, community leaders say they are already battling problems including begging and vagrancy and fear the move could lead to more alcohol-fuelled behaviour.

But Tesco says it is a responsible retailer and measures will be taken to ensure any increased licensing hours do not exacerbate issues.

A town hall hearing to decide the application is due to be held tomorrow.