Police and local government should have greater power to deal with anti-social behaviour in Rushmoor at night to protect residents from drunken debauchery.
A motion was debated at length, and passed, at the Rushmoor Borough Council full council meeting on Thursday July, by members who criticised the decision to grant Yates’s nightclub extended opening hours and called for action to combat poor behaviour in Aldershot and Farnborough.
The authority wants the government to delegate powers to police and local government to control nuisance in town centres, including legislation to control outlets selling legal highs.
Labour councillor Alex Crawford, who brought the motion, said he had been contacted by Aldershot residents suffering from noise, litter and inconsiderate behaviour since Yates’s, in Victoria Road, was allowed to remain open an hour longer, until 3.30am.
Cllr Crawford said groups of revellers were regularly screaming, swearing, damaging cars, urinating on houses and into gardens, and smashing glasses and bottles.
Police records show there are five times as many offences in Wellington ward, in which Yates’s is located, as any other ward in Aldershot and Cllr Crawford said he would like to see a greater police presence late at night.
Councillors questioned why police had not objected to Yates’s’ application and were told anti-social behaviour could not be linked directly to the nightclub.
Labour’s Jeremy Preece, said it would lead to ‘copycat’ applications, a fear realised last week as Rushmoor Kebab shop, further along Victoria Road, applied for an extra hour’s licence to mirror the 3.30am closing time at Yates’s.
Cllrs Ken Muschamp and Alan Ferrier argued members had passed up opportunities to use powers to prevent some of the problems. Conservative colleague David Clifford added: “We have lots of powers, we need to enforce them.”
But Cllr Terry Bridgeman insisted change is the way forward, saying: “It will take resources and it will take time but we need to act. Yes there isn't the nighttime economy in Farnborough at the moment, but it can happen.”
One new measure in use is the dispersal order – since July 2, rowdy and inconsiderate individuals are being told to leave public areas of Aldershot town centre by police.
Legal highs continue to be identified as a problem despite a motion last February to control the sale of drug-related paraphernalia in Rushmoor.
Cllr Crawford said: “Legal highs are a great source of public nuisance. Earlier this year, users had installed themselves in public toilets at the High Street car park, which were unusable by the public as a result.
"The council felt it could only put a stop to it by closing the toilets. We have these sources of public nuisance, which police and local authorities seem powerless to control effectively.”
He suggested Hampshire’s force follow the lead of Kent Police whose officers, with trading standards officials, raided shops suspected of selling legal highs last Monday.
“The police in our area seem to have decided there is nothing they can do as these substances have not been found to be illegal, but if Kent Police can do it, so can Hampshire Constabulary,” said Cllr Crawford.
Cllr Gareth Lyon criticised the previous Labour government’s decision to allow 24-hour licensing.