Lout tackling report asks for street drinker tolerance area in Northampton

Chair of the scrutiny panel on anti-social behaviour, Councillor Dennis Meredith, believes a congregation zone for street drinkers would stop the spread of alcohol throughout the town centre.
Chair of the scrutiny panel on anti-social behaviour, Councillor Dennis Meredith, believes a congregation zone for street drinkers would stop the spread of alcohol throughout the town centre.

Council wardens should wear a camera in Northampton and street drinkers should be given “a wet area” to consume alcohol, a report aimed at curbing anti-social behaviour has recommended.

Northampton Borough Council’s scrutiny panel on anti-social behaviour was set up to come up with ways of combatting street drinking, vandalism and loutish behaviour in the town centre last summer.

The cross party panel of councillors heard representations from Northamptonshire Police, substance abuse charities and street wardens between July 2015 and March this year.

And this week it has made 28 recommendations to the Tory cabinet, which it wants to see adopted.

Among them the panel says town centre wardens should be “issued with a body worn CCTV camera on a trial basis of six months,” with a view to extending the trial further and to those patrolling parks and open spaces.

It also suggests the wardens, who collect fly-tipping and work to move on beggars and street drinkers among other things, should begin holding drop-in surgeries at a “local community base” on a regular basis.

This it says would “allow residents in an area to meet with their neighbourhood Warden and share any issues they may have.”

However a move that may prove controversial is a suggestion Northampton should establish a “wet zone” where street drinking is permitted.

Chairman of the panel, Councillor Dennis Meredith (Lib Dem, Talavera) says it could stop open alcohol containers being carried through the town centre.

He said: “We were clear we wanted a zero-tolerance on street drinking. But rather than coming down a bit draconian we thought we should try setting up a wet area,

The recommendation is that it is properly supervised and monitored and in a place where it won’t be of offence to anyone.”

A similar scheme is already being trialled in Corby, which Councillor Meredith said has been a success.

Previously Northampton did have a wet area - or “tolerance area” - near the old fish market. But as drinkers became badly behaved, it impacted nearby businesses and it was removed.

The borough’s cabinet will decide whether to adopt the recommendations when it meets at the Guildhall on Wednesday, May 11.