New call to act on street drinkers

A POWER to ban those causing problems in Bognor Regis town centre will end next month.

New anti-social behaviour laws mean the dispersal order, which covers the area, cannot be renewed after it ends on December 15.

Police and council officers are considering how they can then tackle yobbish behaviour. The prospect of a lack of powers has alarmed town councillors.

They say the number of street drinkers is causing shoppers to shun Bognor.

The councillors agreed to write an urgent letter to Sussex police and crime commissioner Katy Bourne calling for action.

The town council members said their meeting on Monday the strongly-worded demand should highlight the drinkers’ damaging impact.

Cllr Paul Wells (LD, Hotham) said: “It’s now starting to hit the economic well-being of the town centre. That is going to have an impact on businesses through lost sales and lost revenues due to people not visiting the area,” he said.

He was supported by Cllr Roger Nash (L, Pevensey).

“The police are talking about alternative arrangements after the dispersal order runs out.
But we don’t know what they will be,” he said.

“People are drinking alcohol in the town centre and I’ve said time and time again in this council that we need an alcohol street drinking ban.

“It’s as simple as that. Other towns have it and it works. We need all the powers at our disposal to make sure we don’t have this problem.”

Further concerns about the situation were raised at Bersted Parish Council’s meeting on Tuesday.

Cllr Peter Allsopp said: “I have had numerous people from my area come to me with concerns. They say they thought Bognor town centre was supposed to be an alcohol free zone but that is not the case.

“There are people begging in doorways, usually with dogs, or they are drinking in doorways and on benches.

“We are trying to promote tourism and this is not a very good advert for the town.”

The dispersal order came into force in mid-June and enabled police to ban two or more people from the designated area for up a day.

Sgt Chris Thomas, of Bognor police station, said more than 70 dispersals had taken place. A number of individuals were arrested for defying the ban. But a new anti-social behaviour law last month replaced the powers to create an order.

“Police are, however, working with Arun District Council on other options under the new legislation, while a new long-term solution is being decided,” he said.

Police officers will still be able to disperse people causing problems with the backing of an inspector.

Those who defy the public place order zone and carry on drinking alcohol when told to stop will still to be tackled.