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Last Updated: Friday, 1 August, 2003, 06:17 GMT 07:17 UK
Cafe culture call for UK towns
Cafe in Regent Street, London
The MPs want to see more of this...
The UK's towns and cities need a continental-style cafe culture during the evening and fewer pubs, a group of MPs has said.

A parliamentary committee said the proportion of drinking venues in town centres was too high.

When the sun goes down, it said, central streets and squares become the preserve of alcohol-fuelled entertainment venues aimed predominantly at the young.

The Commons Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Committee have urged Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott to spearhead a drive to create more of a mix.

It said town centres needed to be more "inclusive", encouraging more people to stay on after shops and offices close rather than returning straight to their homes in the suburbs.

Mobile urinals supplied by Westminster Council
...More of these...
It called on Mr Prescott to order every local council to draw up a strategy for managing their "evening and late night economies".

"Evening activity does not have to be focused around consumption of alcohol or aimed exclusively at the young," it said in a report.

"Ideally all sorts of people would feel welcome in town and city centres in the evening and late at night, and there would be sufficient activity to encourage people to stay after work."

The move is intended to tie in with the government's drive to create an "urban renaissance", encouraging more people to live in town and city centres and easing the development pressures on greenfield areas.

Great idea, as long as we can have the weather too!
Ben, UK

However the committee warned that the prevalence of bustling, "vertical drinking" venues, with few tables and chairs and high volume music, was creating "anti-social ghettos" and keeping many people away.

Instead, it said, steps should be taken to encourage "non-alcohol centred evening activities with wide demographic appeal" such as late opening nights for shops, libraries and galleries.

Two men holding pints
... and less of this
"Local authorities and government need to take a proactive approach to balance these interests and achieve the urban renaissance we all want.

"Bologna in Birmingham, Madrid in Manchester, why not?" it said.

The report also proposed powers for councils to ban pub "happy hours" which encourage binge drinking.

Pubs, nightclubs and other late-night venues should be made to clean up the area around their premises.

And mobile urinals should be fitted to discourage people from urinating in the street, it said.

The committee also called for more safe and secure late-night transport, with new funds from the Department of Transport for late-night bus services and a crackdown on unlicensed minicabs.

The BBC's Jon Kay
"MPs want to force councils to make city centres more family friendly at night"

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