Rum deal: Lewisham becomes a drinking control zone

The personality susceptible to the dream of limitless freedom is a personality also prone, should the dream ever sour, to misanthropy and rage.
— Jonathan Franzen, Freedom

Why so many of us a million years ago purposely knocked out major chunks of our brains with alcohol from time to time remains an interesting mystery. It may be we were trying to to give evolution a shove in the right direction -- in the direction of smaller brains.
- Kurt Vonnegut, Galapagos

Lewisham Council has introduced a borough-wide drinking control zone, which gives the police the power to stop you if you are drinking in a public place and behaving in an anti-social way. The idea proved highly controversial when it was mooted, but it appeals to Brockley Central's more authoritarian instincts, though at a heavy price. Not the loss of liberty so much as the introduction of more street signs.

While there are strong libertarian arguments against any such measures, the freedom to drink in public with impunity results in parts of the borough that some people don't feel comfortable walking through, which is an infringement of their own freedom.

For most people, we suspect, the key question will be how sensibly the police use these new powers, if indeed they bother to use them at all, which is presumably why the measure is only a short term trial at this stage. Here's the Council's announcement:

A Designated Public Place Order (DPPO), commonly known as a drinking control zone, has been put in place across the borough of Lewisham following consultation with residents and businesses during the summer.

The scheme will run until the end of February 2011. The Order will give police discretionary powers to stop people and confiscate and dispose of any alcohol within the boundaries of Lewisham borough.

Following the end of the DPPO, Lewisham Council and Lewisham Borough Police will review the effectiveness of the Order to see whether it should be introduced permanently across the borough.

The DPPO is not a ban on alcohol consumption in a public place, and does not make drinking in public an offence, but it is a measure that can assist in tackling street drinking linked to anti-social behaviour. The intention is to provide police with a tool to address alcohol-related disorder in a quick and effective way. Failure to comply with a request from the Police to hand over alcohol can result in arrest and/or a fine of up to £500.

New signs are currently being installed in areas around the borough to remind people they are in a controlled alcohol zone.

The powers are not intended to disrupt peaceful activities. They will be used to tackle nuisance, or annoyance associated with drinking alcohol in a public place. It is not a criminal offence to drink alcohol within the designated area (within the boundaries of Lewisham borough). An offence is committed if a person refuses to obey a police officer’s request to stop drinking.


Anonymous said...

Sounds fair enough.

Anonymous said...

Seems ok, but I think it will only be upheld in Lewisham Town Centre.

Cllr Mike Harris said...

It's across the whole borough. I spoke to Sgt. Laurie today from Lewisham Central SNT and it will only be enforced on those who are being anti-social and generally making a nuisance of themselves. I confirmed that people enjoying a glass of wine in a park with a picnic will not be affected!

A blanket ban does seem illiberal, but it is designed to stop the hard-core minority of street-drinkers who are causing problems especially in Catford and on Lewisham High Street.

TM said...

Lets see if Upper Brockley Road is addressed as previously promised by the Mayor.

Anonymous said...

Dont hold your breath.

Headhunter said...

How about a ban on drug dealing? They could start with the corner of Upper Brockley Rd and Lewisham Way. Why are we spending money banning legal drugs when there's plenty of dealing in illegal stuff going on, pretty much uninhibited. Talk about rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.

Anonymous said...

will it affect picnics in parks?

and drinking outside bars?

max said...

The law is the law, and it applies equally to everyone, wink, wink, nudge nudge, not really.

Anonymous said...

Yes as if the Police patrols Lewisham Streets...

Anonymous said...

There was a recent meeting about the NON ENFORCEMENT of the first Drinking Controlled Zone in Rushey Green/Lewisham Central.

If a piddley little zone can't be enforced then a borough wide one means diddley squat.

At the meeting which the Mayor sat in on, the police came in for a right battering and the Commander for Lewisham will very likely be at the next meeting to explain police inaction.

The Mayor said he wasn't aware of certain matters and no one had come to him with a 'solution' they knew would work.

18 months ago an independent review came to the conclusion there was no evidence the DCZ was working.

The Mayor called a summit last November to discuss the matter, which resulted in....the plan for a borough wide zone.

It seems the reason is because neighbouring boroughs already have borough wide Drinking Controlled Zones. That Lewisham was concerned street drinkers would flood the streets of the borough.

A successful CDZ requires enforcement AND a strong outreach programme. If the resouces don't exist for a small zone, it's going to be even more diluted borough wide.

As for Upper Brockley Road that's classed as a different issue.

In the past few months minuet maps of the existing DCZ have appeared on lamposts at a cost of £5k, which are no longer needed.

One suggestion was to remove benches at £2k each, so the problem are benches not drinkers.

max said...

I often thought that a possible solution could be found in making better use of the space, the pavement between Lewisham Hospital and Catford is unusually wide because there was a river there once, now there are those little gardens, there could be one big market there with each of those little gardens hosting a business, injecting some life there and balancing out the drinking community that is a bit overwhelming now.

Tamsin said...

Those are plans that the Rushey Green Assembly were discussing apparently, but there is the usual long time lapse between an assembly deciding something and it happening. Also the commitment to long-term maintenance

It's very close to our office that they all hang out. The shouting and abuse tends to be at each other rather than passers by, but it is sometimes rather uncomfortable. However the main nuisance if you are trying to work is the yappy dog!

There does seem to have been an increased police presence in the past months, but fairly low-key and tactful stuff.

Anonymous said...

Many of the street drinkers also have a drug problem.

Since October 1 the Medical Centre at Rushey Green has ceased issuing 'medication', the numbers hanging has already dramatically dropped.

The authorities will probably claim enforcement and outreach brought about the reduction.

The 'medication' is now being issued from a centre in Deptford which could mean anywhere between Brockley, New Cross and the River Thames.

The squares in Rushey Green are classed as 'London Squares' and have ye olde laws and restrictions attached to them.

8 Ace said...

If I wanna drink a few tins in the street with the lads and shout at the missus, then no Mayor or copper gonna stop me...

Giovanni said...

Seeing as this no drinking thing is in force from now till February, I don't think it'll affect anyone planning a picnic. Unless you're mad.

max said...

@ Tamsin, interesting, I didn't know they were discussing it.
I don't know what being classed as London Square means actually, I never heard of it before, is it something difficult to overcome?

Deano said...

@ Cllr Mike Harris

So middle class people having a glass of Chablis in the park with their smoked salmon are okay, but working class people having a can of lager with their crisps on a bench aren't?

Anonymous said...


' will only be enforced on those who are being anti-social and generally making a nuisance of themselves'
' is designed to stop the hard-core minority of street-drinkers who are causing problems'

Seems pretty clear to me.

max said...

I understand the issue and the concern it wants to address, I am also quite confident it won't be misused. It doesn't make it less of a legal monstruosity though.

THRoses said...

There are a few unsightly drunks by the anchor at the Deptford end of the High Street. I know a lot needs to happen to make that stretch of the road nice to look at but trying to find a solution for street drinking would be a start

max said...


Anonymous said...

Great news for the BDS

Anonymous said...

Catford/Rsuhey Green and Deptford have the worst street drinking problems in the Borough not Lewisham High Street.

Anonymous said...

@ Deano

....but working class people having a can of lager with their crisps on a bench aren't?

Why do you assume 'Working Class' people will be anti-social?

If anyone does the following in public then they should face the consequences no matter their class...urinating, disposing of needles in gardens, solvent abuse, drunk unable to stand, sexual intercourse, foul and abusive language, violence.

If that defines you as 'working class' .....mmmmm.

Anonymous said...

@ Max

A suggestion at the recent Safer Partnership meeting was to give shops keys and they would lock/unlock the gates to the squares.

It was pointed out as 'London Squares' they should have open access at all times, although sheep grazing may be a banned use.

At the meeting the indication from law enforcers was that CDZ were a waste of time, think the forms to complete take an officer off the street for 3-4 hours and the penalties issued by the courts aren't discouraging.

Apparently the drinkers club together and pay each others fines, or more likely ask the public for the price of a 'cup of tea'.

A councillor wanted to shunt the Rushey Green/Lewisham High St away into Lewisham Central.

A suggestion was that the medical units dealing with the drinkers and junkies should have a garden/space where they can socialise off the streets.

max said...

The problem is that some of those are already offences, you don't need to create a new one because you can't already prosecute those.

max said...

By the way, my reply was to the anonymous above.

Ed said...

Isn't it now government policy for the police to address anti-social behaviour properly as well as crime? Aapparently the police often feel it is beneath them and considering the number of times I've see five-O roll past an antisocial timebomb I would tend to agree.

Tamsin said...

@ anon 21.32 - Lewisham High Street continues way south of the Hospital towards Catford and Rushey Green so I think this may be the same problem area that is being considered.

Anonymous said...

Lewisham Council and our Mayor have excelled themselves with this one. They can't enforce the DCZs they have already (the Police don't want them either) yet they roll out this waste of time and money across the whole borough.
Come down to Upper Brockley Road Sir Bullock and have a look at how the DCZ is working here.

Anonymous said...

As writ by Anon 7 October 2010 08:14

Since October 1 the Medical Centre at Rushey Green has ceased issuing 'medication', the numbers hanging (around) has already dramatically dropped.

The authorities will probably claim enforcement and outreach brought about the reduction.

Anon you are a prophet!

The Mercury Jan 12 2011 page 6....

A temporary clampdown on street drinking has been hailed as a resounding success....

One of the borough's hot spots was outside the Central Clinic in Rushey Green...

Rushey Green safer neighbourhood ward panel chairman James Dobson said: "The drinkers have been moved on and there isn't a problem at this spot at the moment. The zone seems to be working and should be continued."

James, Rushey Green had been in a DCZ since 2003, the primary reason for the reduced number of drinkers was the Medical Centre no longer issuing drugs at that location.

To anyone from the media reading this...please question Council PR handouts rather than take them at face value.

By law the council needed to have a public consultation before the DPPO could be introduced, that ended 27 August 2010.

If as reported the DPPO was introduced in August, then you (John H) have a story about the Mayor wasting money on a consultation that was going to be ignored.

Maybe a few tough questions to cabinet member for 'strategy and communications' are in order?

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