BOLTON’S top police chief wants to attract more families to the town centre to end its “unsafe” image.
Chief Superintendent David Hull says the centre is “not pleasant” and that changes need to be made to stamp out violence — although he insists things are steadily improving.
He added that pubs and clubs could be forced to close earlier because he is not convinced the current hours are the optimum ones.
And Chief Supt Hull says a late night levy to cover policing for bars and clubs wanting to stay open after a certain times, is a possibility.
A consultation will be launched on a package of measures which could be introduced to improve the town centre.
Plans could also include early morning restriction orders, which could stop premises serving alcohol after certain times, only “sensible” drinks on offer, standard door policies, extra CCTV cameras and more taxi marshals to help get people home safely.
Chief Supt Hull said the town has a “dead zone” between 5pm and 9pm and more needs to be done to attract families in the early evening.
He added: “It is not a safe or pleasant place and I want it to be those things. The licensing strategy will maximise the benefits we get from alcohol, and minimise the negative.
“There are social and economic benefits but we need to minimise the downsides and it is clearly associated with violent crime. We have one of the most pressing problems in Greater Manchester in relation to that.”
But he said crime has fallen in the town centre. At the start of the year some venues had up to 10 incidents a month — but last month no venues had more than three.
Chief Supt Hull added: “I am not on an anti-alcohol platform, but there is merit in Bolton considering changes as part of a package of measures. This would not be a silver bullet, but as part of a broad package of measures it could make it safer, more enjoyable and viable for everyone.”
But there needed to be consultation. He said: “If we do not engage everyone, it won’t work. If there was a more uniform closing time, everyone wins.”
“A late night levy would not be a tax on businesses if everyone agreed to close at a certain time. It would mean our resources and could be distributed elsewhere. There is a debate to be had about the licensing hours.”
Plans would be lead by Bolton Council and consultation on a package of measures to improve the town centre could take place in the New Year, although a spokesman said it was too early to comment at the moment as no plans have been drawn up.
He said the consultation would also look at other boroughs, so the bars would not lose customers to neighbouring towns with later opening hours. The consultation will be led by Bolton Council and it is in the early stages.
Licencees involved in the town’s Pub Watch scheme are hoping to have a meeting with the police and council later this week.
Scheme chairman Michelle Parkinson said: “It would be unfair to comment at this stage as we don’t really understand the proposals. There are a few different thoughts and issues regarding it.”
Richard Greenwood, who has taken over Ye Olde Man and Scythe in Churchgate, said: “It is refreshing at Ye Olde Man and Scythe because we have strict closing times and, when we are busy on Friday and Saturday nights, our clientele know what they are getting.
“Earlier closing times would benefit the economy because, at the moment, people have their prime drinking time at home and come out in taxis when they are already drunk and they are not spending in the pubs.”