Give street drinkers a place to go to avoid town centre disruption, councillor argues

Councillor Jim Brooks
Councillor Jim Brooks

Street drinkers should be given a place to go to stop them causing disruption in Bognor Regis town centre, a councillor has suggested.

District and town councillor Jim Brooks questioned why disruptive individuals could not be ‘removed’, which could improve the town’s reputation.

His comments came as Arun District Council’s environment and leisure working group discussed the performance of the authority’s antisocial behaviour team on Tuesday (October 24).

Mr Brooks, Independent councillor for Marine ward, said: “We’ve got the upstairs of the health centre in the centre of Bognor which is empty. We have the upstairs of Wetherspoons in the town centre which is empty. We may have place for a cabin to be put.

“Is it not possible for the safety of the rough sleepers and the drinkers to have them removed to a place where they can be cared for dealt with or whatever is required? Perhaps we could have a business warden permanently managing that station during shopping hours.

“They are there and it does bring the whole town down in Bognor.”

The working group heard from Arun community safety manager Georgina Bouette, whose team was praised by councillors.

They heard how a street community outreach keyworker had engaged with ten ‘prolific’ and ‘entrenched’ members of the street community, reducing their criminality and re-offending by 97 per cent.

Working with the individuals had saved £666,500 in law enforcement costs, a report to councillors stated.

Despite the team’s progress, the working group felt problems with street drinkers and antisocial behaviour remained.

Littlehampton town, district and county councillor Dr James Walsh said: “The local concern and the concern of the shop keepers in Littlehampton is that the problem has not gone away in the slightest.

“There is street drinking and gross antisocial behaviour that the police do nothing about in Littlehampton and the business wardens don’t have the powers the police have to do that.

“It is the biggest single concern of Littlehampton shop keepers. In turn it drives customers away when they are being intimidated inside the shops and street drinkers congregate on benches in contravention of all alcohol orders in that area which are not enforced.”

The community safety manager acknowledged concerns.

She said criminal behaviour orders secured against two individuals had an impact and further enforcement would be sought if needed.

In response to Mr Brooks, she said charities like Stonepillow offered a place for the street community to get support.

She said: “There are facilities but the challenge we have are some of these people are very entrenched. They are often not willing to engage or accept support.”

A meeting between the council, Bognor traders and Sussex Police is planned on November 3. Regular meetings between key parties are held, the meeting heard.

The police were unable to attend the working group.

Vice chairman Mick Warren said: “It is supposed to be a partnership but that doesn’t seem to be working because there is a vital part of that partnership missing, the police, and it seems we are taking on a lot more of their work.”