A CRACKDOWN on licensing rules in central Salisbury has been given a unanimous thumbs-down by city councillors.

The new policy, intended to reduce crime and bad behaviour, is due to be considered by Wiltshire’s licensing committee next Tuesday.

The busiest part of the city centre would be designated a ‘Cumulative Impact Area’ where there would be a presumption against new licences or requests for longer opening hours.

But there was all-party opposition to the scheme when the city council’s planning committee met this week.

Cllr Matthew Dean said: “It’s a disastrous and crazy idea, totally inappropriate for a small market town like Salisbury.”

CIAs were introduced to cope with late-night disorder resulting from the longer drinking hours brought in by Labour when it was in government.

But cllr Dean said: “We need to develop our leisure and tourism offer. Retailing is changing. Do we want a load of empty shops in Salisbury?”

He pointed out that time and money have been spent ensuring that the city has Purple Flag status – a mark of approval for the way it manages the night-time economy. Antisocial behaviour and crime are falling.

“But then out of nowhere, Wiltshire Council has suggested we have this expensive, bureaucratic and very unhelpful mechanism which would proscribe any development of certain types.

“If you want to open a new bar or restaurant, you already have to apply for planning, and for a licence, and that’s all done in public.

“If you run licensed premises badly, you can have your licence revoked.

“We want every case considered on its merits.”

Licensee Amanda Newbery of the Chapel nightclub is on the Purple Flag steering group and says the partnership between police, licensees and the licensing authorities already works well.

She also chairs the business group Salisbury BID, and says board members are against the scheme.

She said: “I have severe reservations about it. Anything that inhibits business is a bad thing. CIAs are normally a last resort if everything else has failed.

“And what’s to stop people setting up new businesses just outside the CIA? What if Stanhope, the developers of the Maltings, want to put licensed premises in there?”

Cllr Dean will be going to Trowbridge to speak at Tuesday’s meeting.