Loss of pub curbs provokes protests

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Indy Politics

MPs and residents' groups are furious that a long-functioning system designed to ensure that licensed premises cause minimum nuisance to their neighbours will become void under the new regulatory regime.

MPs and residents' groups are furious that a long-functioning system designed to ensure that licensed premises cause minimum nuisance to their neighbours will become void under the new regulatory regime.

MPs accused the Government yesterday of scrapping a system of controls that had worked for 40 years. The legal undertakings, attached to licences, are established following consultations with local people. They can include promises to restrict the number of people in a pub, clean up litter and vomit, and to keep noise levels down.

Residents of Soho and the West End of London - where an estimated 3,000 undertakings are attached to liquor licences - said the decision to get rid of them was "crazy". They called on the Government to take steps ensure that the conditions are carried over into the new regime when the Act comes into force next month.

"The Government claims this improves local accountability in fact all the management mechanisms for controlling the night-time economy are being swept away for no good reasons," said David Bieda of the Meard and Dean Street Residents' Association in Soho. "These undertakings such as CCTV and control of noise have worked very well over the years. It makes no sense at all to remove them."

Mark Field, Tory MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, where there is a concentration of pubs and clubs, that the decision to abolish the system of undertakings was an absolute mess. "A lot of very technical undertakings have been given to protect local residents. We are sweeping all this away. The undertakings are now part of the licensing agreement but they will be wiping the slate clean," he said.

The Department of Culture defended the Act and said the new regime would create "a flexible system" that would give local people more powers to attach conditions to licences.

Tessa Jowell, the Culture Secretary, will today hold talks with Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, about a compulsory levy for policing the streets after the introduction of flexible drinking hours. The ministers are expected to thrash out the details of a "targeted" compulsory policing levy.

Ms Jowell is said to oppose a "one size fits all" levy that would hit pubs with no record of unruliness. The levy is expected to be linked to a small geographical area such as a town centre or street where drunken behaviour and unruliness are problems. An announcement on the level of the policing levy is expected within days.

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