No ‘overnight’ fix for town’s drink image

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A group set up to investigate ways of improving safety in Blackpool town centre at night is due to publish its report in the New Year.

The Night Time Economy Working Group was formed after councillors threw out an application for an EMRO (Early Morning Restriction Order) for the town centre following a week-long hearing in February.

The controversial order – which would have seen a number of town centre clubs close at 3am and would have been the first of its kind in the UK – was rejected as Blackpool Council’s Licensing Committee deemed it was not appropriate for the resort.

Instead, the committee called for more police on the streets at key times and recommended a working party was formed to consider alternative ways of tackling the issues around late night boozing. The panel is due to bring an interim report to the Licensing Committee on December 16, followed by its full report in the New Year.

Over the past few months members have been meeting with businesses and speaking to interested parties to shape the best way forward.

Blackpool’s Licensing Chairman Coun Adrian Hutton said evidence had also been gathered through public surveys.

He said: “We have tried to maximise the number of people we could engage with, for example by putting surveys in libraries and undertaking telephone surveys.

“We have been asking people what their views are of the town centre at different times of the day.

“We have had a lot of expert evidence from the police, ambulance service etc, but we decided it would be appropriate also to see what the public thought.

“There has been a lot of very good comments and it is clear the perception people have of the town centre is not something that is going to change overnight.

“It is going to take a long time to get back people’s confidence around coming into the town centre at night and feeling as if they can enjoy it.”

Blackpool police had wanted to ban sales of alcohol from 3am after they claimed it was leading to too much violence in the town centre.

But club and bar owners in the resort warned the move would lead to job losses and called instead for more joint working between the licensed trade, the council and the police to resolve the problems.

Coun Hutton refused to divulge the contents of the report but added “all options” were being considered.