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Saturday, 19 April 2014

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Late drinking ‘a strain on 999 services’

WORRIES about letting Whitehaven bars and clubs open till 3am have been voiced by the ambulance service, which says it is already under “tremendous strain” and would have concerns for public safety.

Crews are often tied up at weekends dealing with public disorder incidents, which impacts on their ability to attend call-outs from other patients.

Since the move of medical and surgical facilities from Whitehaven to Cumberland Infirmary, they have to drive patients to Carlisle (or Newcastle), taking ambulances out of the area “on prolonged journeys”.

After 2am, the total provision for West Cumbria is just three ambulances and a rapid response car, covering Whitehaven, Workington, Maryport and Cockermouth, although ambulances based at Millom, Keswick and Wigton can be called in to respond to 999 calls if they are the nearest vehicle.

Caroline Hastings, operations manager for the North Cumbria Ambulance Service, submitted a statement to Copeland Council’s licensing committee on Monday to assist members to make “an informed decision” on whether to grant an application by Whitehaven’s Roc Bar for an extension of its licence from 2am to 3am (with a 3.30am closure time).

It is the first bid from a Whitehaven nightspot for the late hour, which, if granted, would apply to Fridays, Saturdays, the Sundays before a Bank Holiday, and on Christmas Eve, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

And it is the first time the ambulance service has made representation in such proceedings.

The council’s own environmental health section has objected to the extra hour, saying it will cause more disturbance to residents. And the police have also lodged an objection on the grounds of prevention of crime and disorder, safety and public nuisance.

The owners of the nearby Waverley Hotel, the residents of Brackenthwaite home for the elderly and the residents of Pears House on the harbourside also objected, one of the latter saying she has to sleep with earplugs in.

The applicant, Andrew Conoley, said he was prepared to employ two extra doormen to help disperse people at closing time, install two more CCTV cameras, have door ‘clickers’ to record numbers (entry not allowed after 1.30am) and have the dance floor sound-proofed.

“If premises are run properly it is not a problem. I should be given a fair chance to run my business in a fair manner. I am trying to be busy for as long as I can,” he said.

His solicitor, Neil Pilling, said: “Whitehaven needs people coming into town and spending their money. It has a lot of empty shops and needs some investment.” He said there was already 3am opening at Workington.

But police told the committee that between September 2012 and November 2013, their officers had been called to 51 incidents at the Roc Bar, 35 of which were directly linked to the Tangier Street premises. Of those 51, 15 were crimes (two damage, 11 assaults and two drug offences) and 11 were arrests for public order offences, including being drunk and disorderly. Twenty people were issued with banning orders.

In a ‘league table’ of West Cumbria hotspots, the Roc Bar was listed as the fifth worst and came an equal second in Copeland for violent crime. In the period 2011/12 it wasn’t on the list at all.

“The supply of alcohol for longer and well into the early hours of the morning is a contributing factor in violent crime and disorder,” said Sgt Richard Farnworth of Cumbria Police. “As hours increase, the capacity for people to hang around in the town centre for longer increases and the amount of sleep disturbance for residents, which has a health implication, also rises.

“The majority of people living in the area are elderly, their lives will be further blighted by alcohol-related crime and disorder. Revellers will drink for longer, remain in their homes and continue ‘pre-loading’ with household measures and be in a more drunken state when they arrive in town.”

The sergeant said Washington Street at Workington, where 3am licences have been granted, is the worst place in West Cumbria for alcohol-related crime and disorder.

Mr Pilling said, in analysing the police figures, it appeared that of the 51 incidents, only seven resulted in court proceedings and only 16 incidents occurred after midnight. “Sixteen incidents after midnight, in a 14-month period I would suggest isn’t that bad.”

Since July, the ambulance service has been having to transport more patients to Carlisle instead of taking them to West Cumberland Hospital for treatment as they used to. Caroline Hastings, of the North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust, stated the hospitals had undergone “a reconfiguration of their medical and surgical facilities and all myocardial infarctions (heart attacks), major trauma, vascular and orthopaedic services have been transferred to Carlisle”.

She said: “This has put tremendous strain on ambulance resources as they are quite often out of the area transferring patients to appropriate hospitals, as well as dealing with the incoming 999 calls in the area.”

Coun David Banks said the issue of ambulance availability was nothing to do with the Roc Bar and was not the Roc Bar’s problem. It was about public funding for the NHS and the ambulance service, to allow them to do their job.

Richard and Cheryl Twinn, of The Waverley Hotel, were against the 3am extension, citing problems such as late-night screaming and shouting, car doors slamming, emergency sirens, and their forecourt being used as a public toilet.

“The car park at the back is like a boxing ring with fights. It is horrible, another hour would be intolerable,’’ said Mrs Twinn.

Having heard over three hours of representation, the committee adjourned to deliberate its decision. The applicant should be notified of the outcome within five working days.

The committee was informed that other night-time establishments in Whitehaven were ‘waiting in the wings’ to hear the outcome.

Have your say

People in Whitehaven cant handle 2am opening times never mind 3am, if you go down south or over to Newcastle they are open to 3/4am, with not much trouble. The problem with whitehaven is the people that drink there...some not all just go out to look for trouble the bouncers/police do not help the situation as they are just looking for trouble aswell by being too heavy handed and gun hoe.

Posted by Anom on 11 December 2013 at 12:45

I thoroughly agree with retiredgreyhound! I would go further and say, would it not be more appropriate to stick these scum in police cells till they have sobered up, then prosecute them for drunk and disorderly behaviour?

Posted by Helen on 10 December 2013 at 19:48

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