The Greater Manchester town centre that's becoming a ‘no-go area’ due to booze-fuelled late-night disorder
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The level of alcohol-fuelled crime and disorder during the early hours in Bolton town centre has reached ‘epidemic proportions’ – leading to many considering it ‘no go area’ – councillors have heard.
Bolton council wants to impose a late night levy on bars and takeaways in the town centre which operate between 3am and 6am, to pay for policing and clean ups.
Councillors heard the businesses affected are largely centred around the Bradshawgate area, which has developed ‘an unfortunate reputation’. The town hall’s licensing committee has agreed to a public consultation on the levy, which would see late night businesses pay a weekly charge of up to £28.71, which would be used to fund management of crime and anti-social behaviour.
Greater Manchester Police have pressed for the levy and provided data on the number of incidents in the town centre, particularly in the early hours of Saturday and Sunday. Figures for 2022 show police working in Bolton town centre carried out 177 stop searches, issued 17 dispersal notices, conducted 166 licensed premises compliance checks and made 180 arrests.
The number of businesses in the town centre area operating from 3am to 6am include 35 selling alcohol and 42 takeaways. A meeting of the council’s licensing committee heard from Coun David Chadwick.
He said: “This is to support the police. They are adamant they want it as they are the peacekeepers in the town centre which is difficult. It’s getting to the stage that (late night crime and disorder) is at epidemic proportions. We’ve got to stop it. We must support the police who do a damn good job.”
The meeting heard that late night food takeaways should be included in businesses paying the levy as they are ‘often the flashpoints where disorder is ignited’.
Chair of licensing Sean Fielding said the council wanted ‘to build a diverse town centre economy’. He said: “At the moment some of the behaviour we see on Bradshawgate is such that family friendly businesses present in other towns don’t want to set up shop here. “Bolton in one of very few places in Greater Manchester where establishments open as late as 6am.
“So we find that when pubs close outside of town or in other parts of Greater Manchester they jump in a taxi, come to Bolton and carry on drinking until 6am. I don’t want the town to have that reputation that we are the place where people come to to carry on drinking.”
Coun Fielding added: “Bolton town centre s very pretty – there’s some fantastic historic buildings that could be well used for hospitality venues and responsible operators of bars, even nightclubs. This light regulation would give us back some control over the way the town centre operates.
“There are levels of income not so far out of the town centre that are enough to support a good night time economy. Places like Astley Bridge and Bromley Cross, where people have money to spend who are not that far from town.
“At the moment those people are not choosing to spend their money in the town centre because of its reputation. An intervention like this is the first step in taking back control of the town centre.”
Coun David Grant, said: “These places serve alcohol until 6am which is a ridiculous time to be drinking. The wider cost will never be covered by a night time levy.
“The cost to to the police, the public, the NHS. It’s fuelling addictions and poor behaviour. I’ve never understood the need to go beyond 2am.
“I don’t believe it’s healthy to a community. People say they are afraid to come into town and that gives an impression that Bolton is a no go area even outside of the early hours.”
Coun Fielding said that the late night levy could make it ‘unviable for some of these businesses to operate that late into the night’. “Hopefully it will and we’ll stop having the problems that we have,” he said.
After the public consultation has finished it will be up to the council’s cabinet to decide if the levy is introduced.