Is there a 'drinking problem' around Hampstead Heath?

The availability of alcohol around Hampstead Heath is leading to antisocial behaviour, neighbourhood groups claim

The availability of alcohol around Hampstead Heath is leading to antisocial behaviour, neighbourhood groups claim - Credit: Archant

Concerns are being raised over “never-ending” alcohol licensing applications, which some say lead to antisocial behaviour around Hampstead Heath.   

Neighbourhood groups say there is a “drinking problem” linked to the ready availability of booze, particularly in South End Green.  

At its AGM in July, the Heath and Hampstead Society’s chair, Marc Hutchinson, said: “The situation at South End Green is such that, before long, off-licences are going to comprise half the retail outlets there.”  

The society recently opposed The Nook’s application to sell alcohol between the hours of 12pm-8pm, from Monday to Sunday.  

Citing nine other premises which already sell alcohol within five minutes of the café in South End Road, the objection claimed that greater access to drink would worsen antisocial behaviour and pose a risk to public safety.   

The licence application is yet to be decided by Camden Council (as of August 3), with public comments having ended on July 11.   

Before the Society’s AGM, Metropolitan Police data showed 436 antisocial behaviour reports in Hampstead Town over the previous 12 months, and 370 crimes in total.   

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Reports of antisocial behaviour decreased from 26 to 19 between May and June this year, as coronavirus lockdown restrictions loosened.  

Susan West, chair of the Hampstead Safer Neighbourhood Panel, agreed that the availability of alcohol was having a knock-on effect for local crime.   

“There is a clear connection between the availability of takeaway alcohol and drinking on the Heath, leading to antisocial behaviour and more serious crime, which the Heath Constabulary and local police are struggling to deal with,” she said.   

Hampstead Town councillor Oliver Cooper echoed concerns over “alcohol-fuelled” crime around the Heath, which is managed by the City of London Corporation.

Cllr Oliver Cooper

Cllr Oliver Cooper - Credit: Polly Hancock

“If we want to prevent it spreading, we need to take action,” Camden’s Conservative opposition leader said.   

“South End Green has long suffered from public nuisance caused by problem drinkers.    

“The green itself has suffered from the lack of joined up approach and an inhospitable streetscape due to the fountain being cut off from the pavement.     

“Closing the slip road and creating a more hospitable piazza would reduce it significantly.   

“There are many tools that Camden can use to control and prevent it, but it may have to change its licensing policy to do that.   

“Camden designates Camden Town and Seven Dials as cumulative impact areas, where Camden will give greater weight when deciding on licences to their cumulative impact.    

“The council will next year revise its licensing policy and must consider whether South End Green and other areas should be added.” 

Alcohol on Hampstead Heath

Residents have long raised problems of drinking around the Heath - Credit: Archant

Issues of alcohol licensing around Hampstead Heath have long been raised by local residents and neighbourhood groups.  

Similar problems linked to antisocial behaviour have surfaced recently in Primrose Hill, leading to the park's overnight closure at weekends.

A Camden Council spokesperson said tackling antisocial behaviour is a priority, and that it shares residents’ concerns.  

“As a result of Covid-19 restrictions, we have seen changes in how residents can be affected by antisocial behaviour and we are working in partnership with the police to monitor and respond to these changes, which are also being considered ahead of the renewal of our statement of licensing policy later this year.   

“As part of this renewal process, we will be engaging with residents and businesses for their views and to ensure that the wider impacts of the pandemic are taken into consideration,” the spokesperson said.  

A cumulative impact area is a designated zone where the number of licensed premises is deemed to be harming the neighbourhood. Licence applications in these areas are considered on a case-by-case basis.  

The whole of Camden is designated as a controlled drinking zone, where local police or enforcement officers can request people to stop drinking alcohol.   

A breach of the order only takes place when an individual refuses to surrender alcohol.  

The Metropolitan Police, the City of London Corporation, and The Nook have been contacted for comment.