Brick Lane residents last night applauded a plan to bring crime stemming from the area’s robust night-time economy under control at a meeting in Whitechapel’s Toynbee Hall.
Public disorder and crime have risen over the last five years simultaneously with the increasing concentration of licensed establishments in and around Brick Lane, said Dave Stringer, borough commander for Tower Hamlets police.
He said: “The area must be better regulated to bring anti social behaviour and crime under control. I have seen it work before and I am absolutely convinced things can change, that is why I am asking for this policy to be brought in.”
The area, in the northwest of the borough across Weavers and Spitalfields and Banglatown wards, could see stricter licensing restrictions before the end of the year if a proposal by the London borough of Tower Hamlets is successful.
The ‘cumulative impact policy’ would bring the proposed area under ‘saturation zone’ legislation, where new license applicants must demonstrate they will not add to the existing impact of the high concentration of licensed businesses already operating in the area. Existing license holders will not be affected by the policy.
Councillor Ohid Ahmed, deputy mayor of Tower Hamlets, voiced his approval for the new measures at the meeting: “I am in favour of the policy. I think this will take us in the right direction.”
“The council is committed to improving Brick Lane for those who visit, work and live in the area. A saturation zone policy will help towards creating a safer environment.”
There are more than 207 licensed premises in the zone, accounting for just under 23 per cent of the total premises in the borough. According to Stringer it is responsible for the highest levels of anti-social behaviour and street-drinking complaints for all of Tower Hamlets.
The drunk crowds who visit Brick Lane from Thursday to Sunday are noisy, disrespectful and intimidating, said residents at the meeting.
Matthew Piper, a home owner on Fournier Street who has lived in Spitalfields for 15 years, said: “My personal view is that licensing on Brick Lane is out of control. The number of people visiting Brick Lane in the evenings now far exceeds the limited police resources and as a result that there’s no real deterrent for the shouting, drunkenness, vomiting, urination on houses and acts of vandalism that come with heavy drinking. Late night off-licences mean that many people remain the the area after bars have closed, sometimes drinking on the streets until the first tube. This is obviously very disruptive for local residents.”
Piper chairs the Spitalfields Community Group, which formed two years ago, partly in reaction to the disruption caused by Brick Lane night life.
Kelly Avery, 31, has worked next to Brick Lane on Fournier Street for nearly three years. She said: “Personally I don’t have a problem with it. I’ve had really enjoyable nights out in Brick Lane with no problem and no violence. But, I have turned up to work twice to find vomit and excrement on the doorstep in the morning.”
Saturation zones are already in effect in ELL boroughs of Hackney, Croydon and Lewisham, with a total of 29 across London and 134 in the whole of the country.
The consultation ends on March 22 and is open to the public. Read more about the proposal on the Tower Hamlets council website.
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