Stag and hen parties turning seaside towns into 'no-go areas'

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The Independent Online

Seaside towns could become no-go zones for families because of their binge-drinking culture, with hen and stag nights leaving resorts resembling "war zones, rife with rubbish and soaked with sick and urine", a tourism expert will warn council leaders today.

Seaside towns could become no-go zones for families because of their binge-drinking culture, with hen and stag nights leaving resorts resembling "war zones, rife with rubbish and soaked with sick and urine", a tourism expert will warn council leaders today.

Alan Woods, chief executive of the clean-beach campaign Blue Flag, will make his prediction at a meeting in Blackpool. Mr Woods believes that seaside resorts should stop advertising themselves as places to party to cut down on the rise in rowdiness. Instead they should alter their image, selling ciabattas as well as chips, swapping tacky gift shops for continental markets and opening art galleries at night instead of just pubs and clubs.

"Unlike the rest of Europe, where even museums open late, Britain's night-time economy is based exclusively around alcohol and while the relaxation of licensing laws has been a big boost for some businesses, it has created massive problems, too," he said, adding: "Sadly we've reached a point where binge drinking is the norm rather than the exception.

"It is my belief that to even gain a licence, owners should make sure they've done all they can to crack down on excessive boozing and the violence that goes with it. That might be by training door staff properly or even offering revellers 'chill-out areas' or free drinking water."

Tackling binge drinking, which costs £20bn a year, has become a high-profile government priority, with the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, recently blaming it for breeding a culture of "thuggery and intimidation".

Mr Woods believes that businesses that make money out of extended opening hours should pay a levy to clean up the mess left by their customers. The issue of licensing will be high on the agenda of today's meeting, in light of the change in the law that will see local authorities rather than magistrates handing out licences.

Eddie Collett, who is in charge of tourism at Blackpool Council and vice-chairman of the British Resorts Association, took issue with Mr Woods' concerns. He said yesterday: "Quite clearly what happens at 2am in resorts or any major conurbation is of concern to everybody. But Blackpool does not advertise itself as an 'anything goes' resort. Mr Woods is correct to point out the dangers but Blackpool still attracts families and visitors from all walks of life."

Like other resorts across the country, he added, the city had worked hard to cut back on binge drinking. "Young British people go on holiday and seem to set about the business of prolonged drinking in a way no other country seems to do," Mr Collett said.

He added: "The issue with Blackpool and other seaside resorts is that private sector investment has been massive in bars and clubs and has not been matched with investment in other areas since the Fifties."

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