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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 August 2007, 13:51 GMT 14:51 UK
Close the door on drinking?
Women drunk in the street in Bristol
Street drinking can be a nuisance, but critics warn a ban will backfire

A chief constable has called for a ban on alcohol in public places outdoors.

Should the government heed his proposal to cut anti-social behaviour?

A picnic in the park washed down with a glass of wine may be the ideal summer afternoon for many Britons.

But that carefree setting would be no more if the Chief Constable of Cheshire, Peter Fahy, were to have his way.

In a bid to tackle the menace of anti-social drinking - often by large gangs of youths - which has brought misery to towns across the UK, Mr Fahy has said it is necessary to prohibit al fresco alcohol consumption altogether.

'After dark'

"At the moment you can drink anywhere you like in Great Britain in public unless the local authority have designated that you can't drink in that area," he told the BBC's Today programme.

This seems to be more about punishing individuals than addressing the problem
Frank Soodeen
Alcohol Concern

"I would actually like to see the emphasis changed the other way: that we actually say drinking in public is not permitted apart from in those areas where a local community, local authority say 'yes, in this particular park, this particular location, people can drink'."

Mr Fahy complained the present arrangement meant police officers were acting as "surrogate parents" in many areas.

And his suggestion is not without precedent.

In several jurisdictions around the world - including British Columbia in Canada and Queensland in Australia - outdoor drinking is banned unless an exemption is secured from the local authority.

Support for his proposal came from surprising quarters.

James Lowman, chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores, which represents independent stores and off-licences across the UK, said he would welcome such a move.

"Our members are often the victims of street drinking," he said.

"Gangs of youths will often congregate outside shops because they provide light after dark.

"Retailers can't choose where people drink alcohol that they have bought. But we'd rather they went home and drank it in front of the telly."

But conversely, the charity Alcohol Concern said it was sceptical about the proposals.

Spokesman Frank Soodeen warned such a move could alienate large sections of the public from its message.

"We are not convinced that such an approach would actually work," he said.

"This seems to be more about punishing individuals than addressing the problem.

'Last resort'

And representatives of local councils are not keen to arbitrate which areas should allow drinking.

A spokeswoman for the Local Government Association said that such a move would be unnecessary and bureaucratic.

She asked: "Why a small rural council, which might have no problem with street drinking, have to spend time and money applying for an exemption?

"Local authorities which ban street drinking usually do so as a last resort. Police and councils acting together can try other measures first."

Whether or not Mr Fahy's idea gains support, ordinary people whose lives have been blighted by nuisance drinkers will hope a solution can be found.

Should the legal drinking age be raised to 21?
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30041 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

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