Dorset Council has installed CCTV in Shaftesbury’s Mustons Lane.
In March, some residents wrote to oppose a retrospective planning application for the Angola ‘76 café bar, claiming that the lane was often littered with ‘broken glass’ and, as one person wrote, ‘piss and vomit’, following night-time drinking.
Councillor Derek Beer hopes the new camera will reveal where the rowdy revellers have actually come from. “People are complaining about urinating in the street, banging of car doors or shouting and screaming. It’s all very well to make these complaints, and it could be really from the heart,” said Derek. “But we need to show where, when, who and why. You can’t do it yourself. It has to be done officially and with the proper notices to let people know that it is going on.”
Derek first revealed the camera proposal, made by the former North Dorset District authority, at a Shaftesbury Town Council meeting in January. Since then, publicity surrounding Angola ‘76’s planning application has put the venue in the spotlight, but Derek doesn’t feel that it is fair to point the finger without footage.
“You can’t really assume that problems are coming from any one property, pub or club. You have to have proper evidence. And then, when you have it, you can give advisory help to the premises and say, ‘This is what you need to be doing. You’re upsetting the neighbours. You are causing a problem’.”
In March, John Morgan, the owner of Angola ’76, told ThisIsAlfred he did not recognise reports of urination and explained that he would not have lived, with his children, next door to the bar if such behaviour occurred. John says he is “absolutely delighted’ to hear that CCTV has been installed in the street. “It will show that we are not the root of all evil,” he says, adding, “I imagine the folk of Shaftesbury have been regularly antisocial for several hundred years.”
Derek says complaints should go to the Council and not the police. “Dorset Council is responsible for noise nuisance, environmental health and licensing matters. They’re working in partnership with the police, should there be any law enforcement issues, but basically noise, alcohol and planning are dealt with through the local authority,” said Derek. “I chaired the licensing committee for twenty years and on many occasions, the police sent complaints back and said, ‘You’ve got to deal with the local authority. It’s not our problem’.”
Derek says that if Dorset Council receives complaints now, their staff should be able to scan the video recordings to identify whether people have come from particular premises or whether they are just passing from Bell Street to the High Street, using Mustons Lane.
Derek admits that he is not a fan of CCTV, though. He recalled the time when Dorset Police asked Shaftesbury Town Council to contribute financially towards new cameras. “Immediately after the CCTV went up, there was a spate of robberies and muggings, so we got in touch with the police and said, ‘You’ve got it all on CCTV haven’t you?’ and they said it wasn’t monitored,” explained Derek.
“Unless it’s monitored all the time, I don’t believe in it. I also think that if you’re in a park, it really creates fear, it makes people think there is crime. There was a time when people wanted to put it on Park Walk and I said, ‘No, it’s a peaceful area and you don’t need it at places like that,” he added.
Whatever the camera captures, Derek isn’t certain that the issue of disturbance can be dealt with to every resident’s satisfaction. “There have been lots of comments about Mustons Lane and Bell Street. The trouble is that they are old cottages, leaning over the street, and the noise is amplified.”
Derek explained that the volume of his voice during our conversation in his café was appropriate for the setting. But he suggested that if he spoke at that same level in Bell Street at midnight, it might disturb people. “Lots of things can seem like a big nuisance but actually they’re not too bad. It just means that licensed premises, or the people who run them, need to make sure that when people leave, they’re not causing a problem for the neighbours,” he said.
John Morgan has stated that his Angola ’76 team has worked hard to encourage customers to leave his premises quietly. And Cllr Beer is hoping the cameras can go some way towards resolving this issue. “If people have got a problem and it’s disturbing their quality of life, it definitely needs to be sorted. I welcome a solution to a problem that seems to be there and which is upsetting the neighbours,” Derek said.