Hastings Borough Council has become the latest local authority to begin a scheme urging off-licences to stop selling beer and cider at 6.5% abv and above.

The Reducing the Strength scheme was pioneered in Ipswich and Suffolk Police said it led to a 49% reduction in “street drinker incidents”.

The authority was then approached by the Home Office in June to discuss how the project could be rolled out across the country, and last week Wakefield Council became the first to adopt it.

Now Hastings Borough Council has started a similar scheme in three areas – the town centre, the Old Town and Central St Leonard’s – after a petition urged the council to crack down on street drinking.

The scheme is voluntary – as it is in Ipswich and Wakefield – but Hastings said it was “going one step further” by waiving £89 fee for amending the licence.

All new licences will have this condition from the start.

The council told OLN that Sussex Police has recommended that all new off-licences have this as a condition, but if retailers want to opt out of the scheme they have the right to appeal to an external agency. 

The council decided to adopt the scheme on September 9 and three off-licences have since opened and all have happily agreed to have the condition of not selling 6.5% abv beer and cider on their licences. 

Cllr Jay Kramer, lead member for community safety, said: “The council is aware of the problems of excessive drinking and particularly of street drinking which can deter visitors or new businesses coming to a town.

“The council has had concerns about this for some time and, indeed, introduced a town-wide ban on street drinking several years ago. Taking further action to reduce the impact of excessive drinking is the logical next step.

“We hope that all off-licences in these areas will agree to work with us and stop selling strong alcohol.

“If they don’t, and they become the focus for anti-social behaviour or street drinking activity, we will gather evidence that will support a review of that premise’s licence. The 6.5% condition could then be imposed on their license or stronger action taken.

“We are absolutely determined to continue our robust stand on dealing with street drinking and alcohol-relate crime, and make Hastings an even better place to live, work and visit.”