Consultation over Wakefield Council's curbs on new alcohol licences in city centre

Residents and businesses will be asked for their views on a council policy designed to limit the number of pubs, bars and off-licences in Wakefield city centre.

By David Spereall
Thursday, 9th December 2021, 10:17 am
The council believes there are "too many" licensed premises in the city centre.
The council believes there are "too many" licensed premises in the city centre.

A "cumulative impact zone" was brought in by Wakefield Council in 2006, in response to concerns there was too much boozing in the city centre.

It means that new applications for an alcohol licence from city centre premises tend to be rejected unless they can demonstrate they will improve the area.

The policy was used to block a new convenience store's bid to sell beer this week, despite the fact their nextdoor neighbours Marks and Spencer have already done so for years.

Westgate saw more violent crimes than any other city centre street in 2019.

New legislation however now means the council has to publish a written assessment to back up the policy and explain why it's in place.

City centre residents, businesses, licensed premises and the emergency services will be among the people asked for their views on the assessment, as part of a four-week consultation.

The document repeats the council's view that there are "too many" places selling alcohol within the centre.

The assessment says: "Although these have staggered closing times it still leads to a large number of people on the street during the late evening and early hours of the morning.

New convenience store Homemart was unable to obtain an alcohol licence this week because of its location in the city centre.

It adds: "The (council) takes the view that the principal problems are caused by the number of people attending too many licensed premises in this area, their movement to and from these premises and to and from hot food takeaways."

New takeaways themselves are also affected, with the council indicating they will not approve any more licences to serve hot food after 11pm in the city centre, unless there are "exceptional circumstances."

Figures produced by the council, to back up the policy, demonstrate that violent crime fell in the city centre last year when pubs and bars were closed for months on end.

In 2019, Westgate was the worst affected area, with 232 recorded incidents across the whole area.

The council's licensing committee will discuss the public feedback at a meeting in the new year and decide what changes, if any, should be made.

However, Conservative councillor Tony Homewood questioned the point of the consultation, suggesting the council would ignore any opposition to the policy.

Coun Homewood, who represents Ossett, told a committee meeting on Wednesday: "My problem is that I wonder sometimes whether this assessment is a case of you going out and looking for the evidence to support the argument you want come up with.

"That concerns me.

"I understand the point of view that there's crime and disorder, but there's been crime and disorder on Westgate since I was kid."

Local Democracy Reporting Service