Significant changes to planning laws that dictate where licensed premises can be situated are needed in order to prevent binge-drinking and protect public health, Alex Cunningham has cautioned.
The Stockton North Labour MP made public his warning after receiving confirmation from the local authority that they do not have the necessary planning powers to prevent the development of a so-called “Pound Pub” in the town unless there is evidence that licensing objectives will not be met.
The announcement comes at the same time as figures were released revealing that the North East continues to be the worst region in the country for alcohol related hospital admissions. Alcohol-specific under-18 admissions were 61% higher than national figures, while binge drinking in the region is fully 50% higher than the national rate.
“While it is important to recognise the excellent work that our health services and bodies like Balance do to reduce the impact that alcohol consumption has in the North East, with hospital admissions and mortality falling faster than any other region, we need to do more to prevent problem drinking occurring in the first instance.
“One key means for achieving this is to review the powers granted to local authorities to prevent developments that promote a binge drinking culture. It is an outrage that local authorities are forced to stand idly by as establishments seeking to serve alcohol from 08:30 in the morning at a price of £1.50 for a pint of beer are granted the necessary permissions.
“Despite millions of pounds of investment from both Stockton Borough Council and private partners to reinvigorate and modernise the High Street and surrounding areas, the Council is powerless to act unless there will be a breach of specific licensing objectives. Sadly, the Government failed to make the protection of public health an eligible consideration when making Public Health England a responsible authority.
“We need to take this step and grant local authorities, with their significant knowledge of local circumstances, the power to make informed decisions regarding public health in their area. Moreover, it is high time that the Tory-led Coalition stepped up to the plate and delivered nationally on the minimum unit alcohol price that both the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary have previously backed.”