Littlehampton traders suffering as drunks rule the streets

WH 140714 Business suffering from street drinkers. Andrew Sleeman, of Spokes Cycles, in Beach Road, Littlehampton. Photo by Derek Martin
WH 140714 Business suffering from street drinkers. Andrew Sleeman, of Spokes Cycles, in Beach Road, Littlehampton. Photo by Derek Martin

BEACH ROAD traders blighted by boozers are saying they are close to breaking point over the number of drunks frequenting the street.

Years of witnessing drunken fights, being the victims of verbal abuse and watching street drinkers stumbling along the Littlehampton road have taken their toll.

A number of businesses are calling for something to be done, as a matter of urgency, to curb the problem.

Andrew Sleeman, owner of Spokes Cycles, said: “July is my 25th year in Littlehampton as Spokes Cycles and I just feel that this is probably the first time I have stopped and looked around and thought ‘do you know what, do I really want to be here anymore?’.

“The problem’s just got worse.”

He said in the past weeks he had seen drunks stumbling across the road, in front of traffic, forcing drivers to stop.

“They walked across with their special brews in their hands, right in front of a traffic. When the woman driving beeped them, they just started swearing at her. That’s just not on.”

Mr Sleeman said he had called the police non-emergency number 101 but often found himself waiting upwards of 20 minutes.

The 48-year-old said the issue had become so bad that he had even resorted to calling 999.

Lara Kruger, 45, of neighbouring Beach Road Dry Cleaners, also agreed something needed to be done.

She said: “I think it’s absolutely disgusting. All the traders want this problem gone. It’s awful. We are trying desperately hard to keep the business going but it’s difficult.

“It’s distressing for customers coming through the door because they’re faced with that. It’s awful.”

Currently, those causing anti-social behaviour can be ordered to leave a specifically designated area

Failure to comply with such a dispersal order is a criminal offence and can carry a maximum penalty of a £2,500 fine and/or three months’ imprisonment.

However, on top of this, traders would like to see the hours in which alcohol could be served being restricted.

John Edjvet, town centre regeneration officer, said plans were already in the pipeline to tackle the issue.

The council is working on a special scheme called Sensible on Strength to encourage retailers in the town to stop serving cheap, ‘super-strength’ alcohol.

Mr Edjvet said the scheme had already seen impressive results when it was piloted at Ipswich, with fewer anti-social behaviour incidents, greater footfall for traders and less health issues for surgeries and A&E departments.

He said: “I am fully committed to supporting the hard-working traders in the town who have come forward with their concerns about a group of small but determined street drinkers who are involved in anti-social behaviour.

“Since these concerns were first highlighted, there has been full and frank discussions between Arun, Sussex Police, local medical experts and other supporting organisations such as Stonepillow.

“We have discussed how best to tackle the problem, and to support the street drinkers in leading less chaotic lives and to be better able to support themselves. It is acknowledged that this is a very complex and difficult situation and one that cannot be solved overnight without full partnership support.”

Mr Sleeman understood plenty of work had already been started but felt things needed to progress faster.