'There is nothing magical about 11pm as the pub closing time'

November 25, 2005

Marion Roberts, an expert in licensing law and its impact on communities, is worried by this week's decision to extend pub opening hours, as her nightly walk home takes her past several pubs and clubs.

The professor of urban design at London's Westminster University said: "I live off the Old Kent Road, where the night-time economy is thriving."

From midnight on Thursday, licensed premises in England and Wales can apply to open 24 hours a day. The Government claimed that the change in the law would reduce levels of drunkenness and violence, as drinkers would pace themselves and pubs would stagger closing times.

But Professor Roberts said the Government had missed an opportunity. "It failed to grasp the real problem because the legislation does not look at the issue in the round," she said. "There is nothing magical about 11pm as the closing time. The size and density of premises (serving alcohol) is more important in terms of impact."

Professor Roberts said that a number of factors had led to the overconcentration of pubs and clubs in some town centres. "When cinemas and banks began pulling out of town centres, the licensed traders moved in. It has resulted in a concentration of licensed premises, which drives many people out," she said.

Professor Roberts said that it was fashionable to talk about how Britons seemed to lack the responsible drinking habits of their continental peers.

"My personal view is that the drinking culture has been influenced by the marketing of alcohol," she said.

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