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A 24-hour booze-up

PUBLISHED: 00:45 09 September 2010 | UPDATED: 11:11 14 October 2010

THERE are more 24-hour off licences in Islington than almost anywhere else in London – with new figures revealing the true impact of the borough's boozing problem. Almost 60 supermarkets and shops now have permission from Islington Council to sell alcohol

THERE are more 24-hour off licences in Islington than almost anywhere else in London - with new figures revealing the true impact of the borough's boozing problem.

Almost 60 supermarkets and shops now have permission from Islington Council to sell alcohol around the clock - with many having been granted extended hours since UK licensing laws were relaxed in 2005.

They include 10 off licences in Holloway Road, nine in Seven Sisters Road, six in Caledonian Road, four in Stroud Green Road and three in Old Street.

Neighbouring Camden Council, which has made every street in the borough a "controlled drinking zone" - which bans drinking in the streets - has just two 24-hour off licences.

Islington has also been named as the sixth worst local authority out of 353 in England for alcohol-related crime, violent crime, death rates and hospital admissions.

Community campaigner Katie Dawson, a former Islington Green Party councillor, said: "For every person that finds them convenient, there are people in a bad way who have health and addiction issues and it's not helping them. You don't find these shops in affluent areas. You find them in deprived areas.

"They are businesses that are cynically exploiting people. Islington Council always throw their hands up and say 'What can we do, it's the law'. But in other comparable boroughs they don't have this massive amount of round the clock drinking places."

John Cryne, north London branch chairman of campaign group CAMRA, believes the number of round-the-clock off licences is damaging for Islington pubs, adding: "They're open 24 hours selling cheap, often high strength stuff and not always in a controlled environment like a pub."

But Merve Olgac, manager of the 24-hour licensed shop Holloway Express, in Holloway Road, said: "We do more money at night than we do in the afternoon and daytime. We would struggle otherwise. I think it's part of Islington and the parties and celebrations. We've only had one problem in a year since we opened. If people are too drunk or too young we don't serve them."

New research by Alcohol Concern says social problems caused by alcohol and the impact on residents' health is "significantly worse" in Islington than almost anywhere else in England.

Only Manchester, Salford, Liverpool, Rochdale and Tameside came ahead of Islington in a nationwide alcohol-misuse league table.

This week the new Labour-controlled council admitted it "doesn't have the balance right" on alcohol licensing.

Councillor Paul Smith, Islington Council's executive member for environment, said: "There are concerns about the amount of 24-hour sales and the ease of getting a licence, both locally and nationally. We don't want Islington to be swamped with alcohol and I understand why people are troubled.

"It appears that we don't currently have the balance right, and we will be consulting on our new licensing policy later this month. We will take that opportunity to consider carefully residents' views on 24-hour sales.

"We're dealing with problem street drinkers together with police. Earlier this summer we announced a new controlled drinking zone in Clerkenwell and Bunhill to stop anti-social drinking, and more measures are in the pipeline."

Islington has almost three times as many 24-hour off-licences as the neighbouring London Borough of Hackney. Only Lambeth has more 24-hour off-licences than Islington, according to the London website 24 Hour Alcohol.


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