New policy to tackle Bedford’s alcohol problem

Councillor  David Fletcher
Councillor David Fletcher

New restrictions on the number of premises granted licences to sell alcohol in Bedford town centre have been heralded ‘a victory for residents fed up with drink-related crime and disorder.

Bedford Borough councillors agreed at a meeting on Wednesday (May 2) to introduce Cumulative Impact Policies (CIPs), implementing a presumption against new applications being granted for licences

to sell alcohol in Mildand Road, Tavistock Street and the High Street.

Cllr Fletcher said: ‘Alcohol-related crime and anti-social behaviour is now a 24/7 issue for the town centre. The number of off licences selling cheap, high-strength lager has encouraged a culture of street drinking which has

noticeably changed the atmosphere of Midland Road in particular. The night time economy also comes at a cost to residents who bear witness to a minority of revellers fighting, urinating and vomiting as they

leave the pubs and clubs in the early hours.

“Despite my having been told by the council that there was no case for CIPs, the review by MAKE consultants now provides conclusive evidence of the harm arising from the proliferation of alcohol

vendors at the expense of the community in the town centre. The introduction of the CIPs is an important first step in acknowledging that Bedford has an alcohol problem and reversing this trend.”

Conservative Cllr David Fletcher, representative for Castle Ward, has been campaigning for the introduction of CIPs since 2016 along with the support of Cllr Luigi Reale and the Midland Road Residents’

He has since repeatedly raised residents’ concerns of crime and anti-social behaviour with Bedfordshire Police and council licensing officers.

In 2017 the council’s licensing department finally commissioned an external review despite earlier discouraging Cllr Fletcher from pursuing CIPs due to a perceived lack of evidence,