'Residents say enough is enough' – Frustrations at councillors over late night problems in Whalley

Frustrations with Ribble Valley councillors and staff, who have licensing powers over pubs and clubs, and fresh complaints about night time problems in Whalley, have been raised at the borough’s Licensing Committee.

By Robbie Macdonald
Wednesday, 13th April 2022, 5:03 pm

There are also wider fears that Ribble Valley residents are not reporting incidents to the police because they don’t believe officers will respond.

A series of complaints have been made by Whalley residents and councillors over recent months about noise, crime, litter, damage, intimidation and trespassing and an alleged lack of action by authorities including the borough council, which handles licensing, and the police.

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King Street in Whalley.

New calls for practical action and council staff recruitment were made at latest licensing committee meeting. And there were differences among councillors on what to do next, following updates on Whalley’s night time economy.

Michael Wedgeworth, chairman of Queen’s Street Residents Association in Whalley, said he was staggered to hear that the police had received no complaints from residents and there was apparently no evidence such as CCTV recordings, according to recent updates. And he asked the Licensing Committee what was being doing in practice to deal with anti-social behaviour, criminal damage and other problems in Whalley.

He said: “I have seen evidence myself. I have seen a fight on the streets. To say that has not been reported to the police is fundamentally wrong.”

Focusing on licensing conditions and enforcement, he said: “Alcohol is the problem and sometimes drugs. Alcohol consumed in vast quantities into the night by people who mostly would not dream of behaving badly when sober.

“Residents say enough is enough. We want the law to be rigorously enforced. We are desperate for officers to advise what can be done rather than what cannot be done. There are Early Morning Alcohol Restriction Measures which can be used.”

Conservative Coun Stella Brunskill said to Mr Wedgeworth: “I have been a magistrate for 20 years and I understand what you are saying. But agencies are agencies and the police have been terribly under-manned throughout the Ribble Valley. But we are recruiting and putting more bobbies on the beat.”

She added: “We cannot interfere with police and crime processes. We can help and direct the police and work together. We are honestly doing that. You may think we are being slow but we are doing things. We are also frustrated at the (police) man-power that has not been there in position.”

Coun. Brunskill said only 25% of public calls to the Lancashire police HQ were relevant to crime and disorder. The majority were ‘social service’ issues.

She said: “There’s an incredible amount of wasted time but everything has to be investigated. The public needs to be educated about what is the right service to call, the police or social services?”

But Conservative Coun Ian Brown was worried. He said: “It seems that residents have been waiting a long time and nothing is happening. Maybe the residents will know the problem premises? Surely it’s not that difficult to target the premises? Yes, it’s a police issue and, yes, it’s a Ribble Valley Borough Council issue. We need to move more quickly.”

Borough council solicitor Stephen Barker said Ribble Valley council licensing officers had visited premises and dealt with issues such as noise disturbance.

But he added: “Currently, the police do not report any issues with licensees in Whalley. There are issues with customers moving between premises. Door staff are asking customers to leave quietly but what happens outside is beyond their control. Those issues do not come under the licensing remit.

“If residents want to ask for a review, that can be brought to this committee.”

However, county councillor Mark Hindle, who is not a member of the borough licensing committee, said: “We are not saying that existing licences are being broken. But residents say licensing conditions are too liberal and allow people to drink excessively into the early hours. Existing conditions are too permissive. We appreciate it’s a permissive environment but the issues are very difficult.”

Coun Alcock said if people were not calling the police, “there’s not a lot we can do”.

Conservative Coun Ged Mirfin, who is not on the borough’s licensing committee, said there were not enough CCTV cameras in Whalley to cover areas such as Queen’s Street, Accrington Road, the bus station and areas where vandalism had been a problem.

But he urged action and recruitment of extra council staff.

He said council officers recent responses to suggestions for Early Morning Restriction Orders or Late Night Levies had been simplistic

He added: ” I strongly advocate a review to see if we have sufficient staffing in place to fulfil our statutory functions. This may best be carried out utilising an external human resources consultant. We can only aspire to be the activist authority with regard to licensing if we have the necessary resources in places.

“We also have a duty of care as an authority to our residents.”

He added: “It is unacceptable, unhelpful and dismissive to suggest that applications for licensing reviews are instigated by residents when the local authority, as a responsible authority, has the ability to do this on their behalf.

“Last year, just three licensing reviews were instigated by residents in the entire country. This indicates that the process is cumbersome and difficult”

He also said Ribble Valley Borough Council could apply for funding from a Home Office Safer Streets project, linked to the murdered London woman Sarah Everard, and a Safer Lancashire fund linked to the Police and Crime Commissioner. Whalley Parish Council was also looking at CCTV issues.

Conservative Coun Sarah Rainford said: “The public may be apathetic about calling the police because they don’t see the police acting. The police are spread so thinly they cannot respond. However, reporting is important because it relates to how many police we actually get.”