Ban on booze

WINDMILL Hill could soon become an alcohol-free zone. Police are in discussions with North Hertfordshire District Council about plans to cut down on crime and anti-social behaviour at the popular town centre spot by introducing a designated public place o

WINDMILL Hill could soon become an alcohol-free zone.

Police are in discussions with North Hertfordshire District Council about plans to cut down on crime and anti-social behaviour at the popular town centre spot by introducing a designated public place order.

The order would give police officers and police community support officers the power to ask people to stop drinking alcohol within that area if they believe it is creating a disorder.

They can ask people to stop drinking and to get rid of the alcohol by pouring it away, putting it in the bin or giving it to the officer.

If people refuse, they can be issued with a £50 fixed penalty notice or can be arrested and can face a maximum penalty of £500.

Inspector Julie Wheatley attended a talk before the district council's Hitchin area committee meeting last week and spoke to councillors and members of the public about the proposals.

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She received support from Hitchin's councillors and will continue discussions with the district council over the next few weeks.

Speaking about the plans, Insp Wheatley said: "An environmental audit needs to be done and we will be looking at the victims, the location and the offenders and one of the options we are looking at is an alcohol-free area.

"We will present our side to the council but this could take upwards of two to three months. They said we should present them with the information and they will decide what to do with it.

"There are a lot of things we have tried on the hill and I'm not saying that this is a panacea for all the ills, but this is another option."

Insp Wheatley said the police have received a "volume of complaints from certain individuals," and the problems the police face on the hill "will not be solved by throwing six or seven officers at it every Friday night".

There was also an acknowledgement that work needed to be done should the people who currently use the hill move elsewhere in the town.

Councillor Judi Billing, the chair of the Hitchin area committee, agreed, saying: "It's incredibly important that Hitchin councillors work to support the police in ensuring that Hitchin town centre remains a safe and welcoming place for people who want to use it as part of their leisure.

"It may be that an alcohol ban on Windmill Hill will be part of the solution but at the same time we need to work in partnership with local organisations, young people and the county council to ensure that there is plenty for young people to do and that they are fully involved in those decisions."

Speaking about the proposals Councillor Tricia Gibbs, the council's portfolio holder for community engagement and rural affairs, said the council had recently introduced its first alcohol-free zone in Royston and is still waiting to find out its effectiveness before committing itself to a similar scheme in Hitchin.

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