NORTH SOMERSET: Nighttime economy recovery
Weston\'s cumulative impact area. North Somerset Council.
Pubs and nightclubs are being encouraged to open in North Somerset to help the night-time economy recover.
The centre of Weston-super-Mare is currently at “saturation point” for venues but after a reduction in crime and disorder amid the pandemic the police do not have the data to support a cap on new premises, so it is set to be lifted.
And in a drive to draw revellers back, officers are cracking down on drink spiking, a paramedic will be based in the town to relieve pressure on ambulance crews, and a taxi driver will be sponsored to get vulnerable people home safely.
Sioux Isherwood, North Somerset Council’s principal licensing officer, told councillors on November 16: “[The cumulative impact policy] gave us a saturation zone in Weston town centre to say if you’re going to add additional premises you’re going to have to tell us what you bring to the party, otherwise it’s a no to start off with.
“With the pandemic recovery it’s very difficult for businesses to come into the market from that position of refusal. We’ve taken the stance that we’ll be supportive to businesses coming in, encouraging strong applications with consultation with the police and other authorities.
“It’s time to remove that cumulative impact policy. It won’t affect Weston town centre particularly because we’ve reached saturation point – we can’t really build much more or go much later with any premises – it’s about controlling the existing operators.
“It’s about encouraging a recovery stage.”
The council’s current stance is to reject new applications for premises in the cumulative impact area unless the applicant can prove they will not exacerbate the issues. Removing the policy will mean that applications will be judged on their own merits, although it could be reintroduced.
Ms Isherwood said about a third of the licensed premises across North Somerset had changed hands, closed or ceased trading, but in central Weston only one or two have been affected.
She added: “A lot of the cumulative impact was linked to crime and disorder. You’d have to have quite a lot of police data to back up the continuation or introduction of the impact.
“Because they’ve been closed for two years, that data isn’t available.”
Ms Isherwood said premises are as proactive as they can be but there had been some incidents because there is a new generation of 17 and 18-year-olds who had not been out drinking before and are not used to being out in public.
“They come out like a bull in a china shop,” she said. “We aren’t back to pre-pandemic levels.”
The meeting heard that operations with the police had shown very little presence of drugs in licensed premises but there have been rumours of drink spiking and two confirmed cases, possibly driven by increased awareness and the victims knowing to get tested.
Metal detectors are being rolled out that identify if someone is carrying a blade or a needle they could use to spike someone with drugs.
“We’ve managed to get some South West Ambulance Service funding for a paramedic to spend every Friday and Saturday night on the MAVIS bus,” Ms Isherwood told councillors.
“We’re conscious that with no A&E and the impact of extra people coming out into town that cover really is essential for vulnerable people.
“We’ve also got an arrangement being set up with a local taxi firm who are going to sponsor a paid taxi driver to sit next to MAVIS with a dedicated vehicle.
“With taxis we’re about 40 per cent of where we were [before Covid] so to get someone in an emergency to take someone home is quite difficult.
“Our next project to set up is around outreach volunteering from the bus so we have some dedicated trained volunteers to pick people up.”
The council is set to consult on changes to its licensing policy before they are adopted next year.
Words: Stephen Sumner, Local Democracy Reporter
Watch the channel on TV