COLUMN: Drink ban for Boston is a last resort

Peter Bedford
Peter Bedford

Boston Borough Council leader Peter Bedford explains the thinking behind the proposed street drinking ban...

When all other options have been explored and all other solutions tried you often have to consider the last resort, no matter how unpalatable it might seem to be. And that’s the stage we have now reached regarding the many issues surrounding drinking of alcohol in public in Boston.

There is confusion about current controls, which mean no action can be taken to prevent drinking of alcohol in public. The police, at the moment, can only step in if there is associated anti-social behaviour, or the threat of it.

But for many, especially women, the very presence of groups of mainly young men drinking often large amounts of alcohol in the street and other public areas such as Central Park, and clearly the worse for wear, is disturbing enough, without the attendant anti-social behaviour.

They find it intimidating, even frightening. And that’s not right. No one should be afraid to walk the streets and parks of our town at any time, and especially not in broad daylight on a working day. They have made their views known with 97 per cent of those who took part in the council’s consultation saying they wanted to see a complete drinks ban in a defined area where there was evidence to support it.

The police have pointed out that drinking in the streets and other public places has now gone beyond being merely unsightly. There is a culture of street drinking which now has to be broken. That culture, which has developed only in the last few years, now leads on a regular basis to many other incidents of anti-social behaviour, such as urination in public.

As a council we have faced many problems in trying to control these problems – public benches have been removed in some hot-spots to discourage drinkers from gathering, bushes and shrubbery have been trimmed back and even completely removed to reduce hiding places which had been used as drinking dens and for urination and even defecation, various notices and posters in a variety of languages, including English, have been tried, from menacing staring eyes to polite messages imploring decent behaviour. But the problems are still with us.

All of this has led to the recommendation that there should now be a total ban on drinking alcohol in public places within a defined area in the town.

I am sorry we cannot have a borough-wide ban, but we have to be realistic. The police have said they have every confidence about resourcing a town centre drinks ban area but have serious reservations about resourcing a borough-wide ban.

There is also concern about being unable to evidence the need for a borough-wide ban should we have to face judicial review.

If there is evidence that a town centre drinks ban, should it get final council approval, has displaced drinkers into other areas then we will have to look at extending the drinks ban area.

For the first time four case studies of best practice submitted by the council will be on display on the district council’s network stand at the Local Government Association’s annual conference in Bournemouth.

Representatives from authorities all over the country will be able to pick up details of our initiatives to reopen the training pool and promote swimming and increased use of the Geoff Moulder gym, Operation Fly Swat - the groundbreaking project which uses free labour from HM Prison North Sea Camp to tackle fly tipping, our garden waste collection service and our daily low-cost and environmentally-friendly electronic residents’ newsletter, Boston Bulletin daily.