THe CAPITAL’S community safety leader today demanded an overhaul of alcohol sale rules and a ban on new pubs, clubs and off-licences in the city’s worst-affected areas.
Councillor Cammy Day – one of the most senior figures in the Capital Coalition – said stiff restrictions should now be placed on the granting of new licences in Leith, Leith Walk and Tollcross – three areas widely accepted to be swamped with bars.
It comes the day after Police Superintendent Matt Richards railed against the views of city licensing leader Eric Milligan who has rejected links between the spread of alcohol licenses and a rise in associated crime.
In an interview with the News, the police chief suggested Councillor Milligan was “failing in [his] responsibilities” to protect the public. And he said some of the views expressed by the board – which has waved through several controversial licensing applications – were “antiquated”.
Seven districts of Edinburgh have previously been designated as “serious” or of “special concern” due to the high volume of pubs and alcohol-related disturbances. Each new application in the saturated areas is reviewed by police and NHS Lothian.
Today, Cllr Day heaped pressure on board members to tighten up rules in three of the worst-hit areas.
“If those areas are now over-provided for, we need to start taking action on that,” he said. “I think we need to take a tougher line on the number of licensed premises that are coming into the city. We need to start taking a bit more notice of the information that’s being put forward by the NHS and the police.”
Experts claim there is “undeniable” evidence that health problems were linked to the number of licensed premises.
Dr Niamh K Shortt, a senior lecturer in human geography at Edinburgh University, said: “In recent research we mapped alcohol outlet availability across the whole of Scotland and showed that alcohol-related death rates in neighbourhoods with the most alcohol outlets were more than double those with the fewest.
“Furthermore, alcohol-related hospitalisations were also highest in neighbourhoods with the most alcohol outlets – more than 50 per cent higher than in neighbourhoods with the fewest outlets.
“This evidence is undeniable and our research suggests that reducing the neighbourhood availability of alcohol outlets could have significant health benefits in Scotland.”
Licensing board member Chas Booth said experts’ evidence had to be taken seriously.
The Green councillor said: “The time is right to ask the city’s alcohol and drug partnership to look again at Edinburgh’s approach to over- provision. But that work will be in vain if the licensing board continues to stick its collective head in the sand.”
Council leader Andrew Burns revealed the Edinburgh Drugs and Alcohol Partnership would now be invited to object to alcohol licence applications in particular areas of concern.
Cllr Milligan was unavailable for comment.