'Sex in alleys, cocaine sniffed from car bonnets, club music ... it's hell for residents'

Pictureque Whalley in the Ribble Valley
-Credit: (Image: LDRS)


Residents in a picturesque Lancashire village are still being disturbed by drunkenness, drug abuse, anti-social behaviour and noise from revellers on streets, music from clubs and people having sex in alleys despite a special licensing system, Ribble Valley councillors have claimed.

Whalley bars and clubs are attracting people from across the region including Blackpool, Blackburn, Hyndburn and Rossendale, which is making life a misery for some residents, councillors say. Councillors raised a host of complaints at the latest borough licensing meeting and approved a new public consultation exercise in Whalley about renewing the special licensing system there.

The system requires business people wanting to open a new bar, club or food businesses, or to change existing licence conditions, such as opening times or permission for live music or DJs, to prove they will not add to the pressures. It is called a cumulative impact assessment (CIA).

Whalley has been the focus of this since 2019. Its night scene, particularly late night venues at weekends, has been the focus of debate. At the latest licensing meeting, many councillors expressed frustrations on behalf of residents and called for the CIA regime to be renewed.

‘HORRENDOUS FOR SOME RESIDENTS’

Independent Coun Jim Rogerson said: “I remember being involved with this previously. There was trouble in Whalley and I think a lot of it was from one or two premises. The problems were horrendous for some residents. Things may have changed and people now may have less money in their pockets? Things seem to have changed in Longridge. But I’d recommend new consultation in Whalley.”

Lib-Dem Coun Simon O’Rourke said: “At various meetings I’ve heard about the problems from residents. We should re-look at this. In recent years, shop buildings have become vacant and then, all of a sudden, someone wants to open a bar. We’ve had applications where we’ve agreed bars can open until 9pm. But then customers just go to another premises and the system can break down. Rio’s have got things sorted but it’s the other places around.”

Rio’s was the nickname for the former Rendezvous club which is now called Alta. It is next to The Aviary on Accrington Road. Both venues have signs asking customers to show respect for neighbours nearby. Coun O’Rourke also felt there are not enough taxis in Whalley to cope with the number of people wanting transport home after a night out.

‘TERRIBLE AT WEEKENDS’

Conservative Coun Mark Hindle. a Whalley councillor, said: “I’m here to talk for a good number of residents. Whalley is a lovely place with some beautiful places to eat and drink. But there are some areas where I would not like to live, such as around Queen Street where The Aviary is based. It’s a terrible place to live at weekends. There is noise, people have sex down the alleys, they sniff cocaine off car bonnets.

“I feel I’ve let down residents because I’ve been unable to do anything about the fragrant abuses of The Aviary. I’ve seen residents leave Whalley and curse the Ribble Valley because of problems. Other places, such as The Salvage House, are not in the same league but they persistently generate a lot of noise, particularly at weekends.”

The Salvage House is on Back King Street. He added: “In September, there was a drugs bust on a pub and multiple people were detained. In March, there was a sexual assault of a woman. There have been public order incidents. All of these have police records. My concern is that the CIA has not had a significant impact on the small number of venues that create problems. I want this CIA to be enforced with all the agencies involved.”

Conservative Coun Stella Brunskill said: “Late opening to drink alcohol to 2am has had a significant impact on villages because anti-social behaviour starts around midnight. It doesn’t happen in London because places close at 10 or 11pm. Late-night drinking was a policy from a past government and it has not worked. If we can do something about it, it has to be done.”

Conservative councillors Gary Scott and Richard Newmark agreed. Coun Newmark added: “People come to Whalley from Blackpool, Bacup. Rawtenstall, all over the place. Whalley has become known for its late night scene in what was once a rural village. The late hours seem ridiculous for the location.”

‘LETTING OFF STEAM’

But Labour’s Kieren Spencer urged some caution. He said: “I support consultation in Whalley. But I also think it’s important we don’t lose sight of the need for places where people can let off some steam after a week’s hard work.

“I’m not saying sniffing drugs off cars or having sex in alleys is a good thing. But we need to look at other options rather taking licences off clubs. Some of this debate seems pretty negative. Businesses attracting customers from Blackpool and elsewhere should be commended. But we still need to tackle the issues.”

Green and Progressive Liberal Coun Ryan Corney said: “People tend to go out later at night, after a few drinks at home. There needs to be some self-control from individuals. People need to realise they’ve had enough to drink and should go home. Perhaps some work is needed with venues, to clarify when to stop serving, and some work with the police?”

Conservative Jan Alcock said it was difficult to control people on the streets, once they had left a venue. She added: “If I go off and have sex or drugs, can we hold the venue responsible? Door-staff ask customers to leave quietly but they cannot chase them down the street.”

A number of councillors felt the trend to later closing times had simply moved problems later into the night. Customers went out later and came home later, creating more impact on residents. But Jim Rogerson said problems stemmed from venues all shutting at similar times, creating a surge of people on the streets, rather than 2am being a particularly late time. Some venues across the country had opened until 2am for the past 50 years, he added.

Labour’s Lee Jamieson said councillors had to focus on the wider CIA rather than only focusing on opening hours. Independent Coun Ian Brown, the Licensing Committe chairman, said: “This has been going on for years. There’s a problem that we have got to sort out. While I’m chairman of licensing, I’ll make sure this stops. We have got a duty to residents.”

Council solicitor Stephen Barker emphasised that opening hours Whalley are already varied. He said: A Lot of venues are not open until 2am. Some have 10.30pm closing. The Salvage House closes at 10.30pm. And not all premises use all their permitted hours currently either. It’s important to make this clear.”

COUNCIL AND POLICE

Mr Barker and other officers also clarified the CIA’s scope. It is designed to deal with new and future licensing applications rather than existing licenses or historic issues. It cannot revoke existing licences. However, other council powers can be used for investigation and action, such as environmental health and licensing. Other agencies, such as the police, have powers too.

The Whalley CIA process first came about in 2019 and was reviewed again in 2022-23. In past consultation, no formal comments were received from Lancashire police or fire services, which are classed as ‘responsible authorities’ However, there were many comments from residents. Mr Barker said. Again in the CIA’s 2022-23 review, there were no comments from any other responsible authorities. And there were less comments from the public.

A Lancashire Police spokesperson said this week: “The licensed premises in Whalley are one of our neighbourhood policing priorities at the moment. We are working with Ribble Valley Council, residents of the area and licensed premises to find a solution to the issues raised. ” The Aviary and The Salvage House have been contacted for comment.