Licensing change aims to down binge-drinking in Harold Hill

Binge-drinking is on the rise in Harold Hill. Picture: David Jones/PA

Binge-drinking is on the rise in Harold Hill. Picture: David Jones/PA - Credit: PA WIRE

Binge-drinking related ambulance call-outs are at their highest in seven years and Harold Hill is the main offender, new figures show.

A worrying new report reveals in the first six months of 2015, paramedics were called 650 times to deal with drunk people in Havering – more than the amount for any year since 2009.

Of those calls, 98 were from Harold Hill, a 44 per cent increase on the whole of last year (68), in half the time.

There has also been an increase in antisocial behaviour and shoplifting, as well as a problem with street drinkers in the Hilldene area.

A survey carried out by the safer neighbourhood police team among residents and businesses of the shopping centre were told of increased shoplifting, fighting, urinating in the stairwells and intimidating behaviour.

The rise in buying alcohol from shops to drink elsewhere has contributed to the problem.

As of March there were 33 licensed premises in Heaton and Gooshays wards, 19 of which were off-licences.

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Havering Council believes people drinking at home rather than a licensed premises such as a pub or restaurant is leading to the problem, and wants to change the culture to stop it happening.

It has introduced a new licensing policy, which aims to ban new applications for off licences in Harold Hill in a bid to encourage more restaurants and pubs to open.

Cllr Osman Dervish, cabinet member for regulatory services, said the council was looking to make the area more family friendly.

He said: “There are more off-licences than on-licensed premises in Harold Hill and the policy aims to balance this out to create a more family focused area.

“As well as encouraging people to drink socially and responsibly, we also want to encourage restaurants to the area for families to enjoy in Harold Hill, developing it as a local town centre.”

The decision comes in the same week that figures from The National Institute for Health Research showed that councils which limit new licences have fewer alcohol-related hospital admissions.