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Anti-booze group says North East against licensing law changes

Alcohol campaigners Balance North East claim supposed plans to relax licensing laws are overwhelmingly opposed by people in the North East.

MPs were thought to be readying themselves to debate proposals to introduce measures as part of the Deregulation Bill that could make it easier for businesses such as hairdressers, florists and tanning salons to sell booze.

But no licensing law changes, in the form of a Community and Ancillary Sellers’ Notice, were tacked on to the legislature during discussions in the House of Commons, during which politicians looked at other “red tape” that the Government wants to cut.

Before the debate, on Monday June 23, the pressure group said the results of their new survey show there was no appetite for any change anyway and with almost 8,000 locations already selling alcohol in the region, there are already too many.

“The availability of alcohol in the North East is already too widespread and the proposed introduction of measures making it easier for businesses to sell alcohol will do even more harm to our region and its communities,” Colin Shevills, the director of Balance – who hit the headlines last year after producing an anti-alcohol advert featuring a tumour growing in a pint of lager – said.

“Alcohol is already available round the clock, every day of the year from locations as diverse as petrol stations and soft play areas.

“It has also become much more affordable, costing 61% less in real terms than in 1980.

“These shifts have contributed to a significant increase in alcohol-related harms across the North East, including some of the highest rates of alcohol-related hospital admissions, mortality and morbidity.”

Balance surveyed “more than 2,700 people” in the North East and said that 95% believed it’s unacceptable for alcohol to be sold in a children’s soft play area, 86% were against its sale at motorway service stations, 84% said hairdressing salons are no place for booze and 77% opposed alcohol being sold at petrol stations.

The group also said it found that 62% of those surveyed believed alcohol shouldn’t be on sale in cinemas.

A report by Alcohol Concern has previously linked the number of alcohol-related hospital admissions among children to the density of licensed premises and Mr Shevills fears that any relaxation of the rules governing alcohol sales will only make matters worse.

“It will remove barriers certain businesses currently face when obtaining licenses making it harder for local licensing officers to object,” he said. “If this legislation is implemented it will effectively mean that the Government is encouraging more alcohol consumption rather than less.

“This is not what the people of the North East want. They have made their voices heard through our survey and they have said that moves to allow further expansion in the number of licensed premises would be unwelcome.

“This could not only have a damaging effect on the health and wellbeing of the community but also local pubs, which may suffer financially as a result of the increased competition.

“Evidence shows that controlling availability of alcohol is one of the most effective mechanisms for reducing alcohol-related harm.

“The introduction of ancillary licenses will do more harm than good and it’s clear that the communities in the North East do not want them.”

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