Late-night levy thrown out in favour of zone plan

Drunken behaviour on the streets of Blackpool
Drunken behaviour on the streets of Blackpool
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Proposals to charge pubs to stay open late in Blackpool have been thrown out by licensing chiefs who look set to zone the town centre for the first time in a bid to make it safer for everyone.

Plans to impose a late night levy on any licensed premises wishing to serve alcohol between midnight and 6am have been rejected after it was felt the charge would be unfair.

Annual payments would have ranged between £299 and £4,400 depending on set criteria and venue.

Blackpool Council’s licensing committee rejected the proposal but instead will consider formally amending its policy to create town centre zones.

An accreditation scheme could also be adopted.

Coun Adrian Hutton, chairman of Blackpool’s licensing committee, said: “It was agreed not to pursue a late night levy subject to reviewing it again in six months time when we have considered the other issues to see what their impact is on the late night economy.

“In certain areas things are improving but there are some areas where we still need to get some of the licensed trade on board to get the right experience for everybody, so they are not just standing there smacking back pints and shots.

“We recognise the licensed trade is a big part of Blackpool but we want to make sure it is a good experience both for residents and visitors.

“We want residents to feel comfortable coming into town in the evenings later on and visitors coming here to have a good time and want to come back.”

The resort’s late night economy has come under scrutiny ever since proposals for a Late Night Restriction Order (EMRO) banning the sale of alcohol in the town centre after 3am were rejected more than two years ago.

Councillors will now consider amending the town’s licensing policy to create distinctive zones in the town centre. This would officially establish Queen Street and the surrounding area as the late night entertainment area, while St John’s Square, Church Street and Victoria Street would be allocated for restaurants and family-orientated venues.

Licensing applications would be encouraged to match the criteria of each area.

A council report says: “The benefits would be that planning policy would be aligned with licensing policy and potential operators would have guidance on where to locate a potential business.”

Also on the cards is a new accreditation scheme “which will reward good operators and encourage improvement in others”, according to the report.

Coun Hutton said: “The detail needs to be worked out but the general principle is there.

“We have always said that we want to work with the trade.”

A late night levy could have helped fund initiatives such as CCTV, taxi marshals and more street cleaning.

But funding from the Blackpool Business Improvement District (BID) and the recruitment of volunteers has already seen a return to a partially-manned CCTV system, as well as funding street angels who provide support.

Dave Daley, of the Castle on Central Drive and a member of Blackpool Pubwatch, said: “I think a late night levy could have been good to help fund some initiatives, but the CCTV was a big thing and people do feel safer with it.

“The EMRO hearing did shake the licensed trade up.

“It shocked us to hear what people’s perceptions were and what they thought of Blackpool town centre, and we didn’t like that.”

A four-day hearing was held in February 2014 after Blackpool police warned an EMRO was necessary to combat booze-fuelled disorder in the town centre.

But club and pub bosses opposed the move.