Persistent issues with street drinking in Ilford

Ilford residents fear persistent issues with street drinking and public urination are bringing the local area down despite council efforts to limit the problem.

Frustrated locals say they have seen people drinking alcohol in the streets, acting aggressively, and even dealing drugs.

A public space protection order (PSPO) was introduced by Redbridge Council and Metropolitan Police in October 2023, making it a specific offence to publicly drink, spit and urinate in the town centre and surrounding wards.

Offenders who breach the order may be handed a £100 fixed penalty notice or a fine of £1,000 if they are prosecuted.

But while the council says it has taken a “tough stance” against all forms of antisocial behaviour (ASB), residents say the problems have not gone away.

Mike Waringer, who has lived in Ilford for 42 years, said he regularly sees people spitting, urinating, defecating and drinking. He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) he had even cleaned up human excrement near a church twice in a single week.

Having lived in Ilford for more than four decades, he said issues in the town had noticeably worsened over the past ten years.

He added: “The council is quite good at putting signs up, but it doesn’t really do anything.”

Another resident said that Valentines Park had become a ‘hotspot’ for antisocial behaviour, but felt it was a “difficult problem to solve”.

He said: “It’s difficult to gauge if it’s bad or not.

“If the police move them on, they’ll go elsewhere.”

A spokesperson for the Met said the force “knew from speaking to our communities that these types of behaviours have a detrimental impact on those who live and work in the area”.

However, others were less concerned. One local worker told the LDRS: “It’s no different to anywhere else. I don’t ever see anything out of the ordinary.”

The council maintains its commitment to tackling the ongoing issues and says its intelligence-led approach means the community protection task force (CPTF) can “quickly identify and target” premises where groups gather.

A spokesperson for the London authority said: “This activity invariably means we can move people on without needing enforcement action. We also have certain powers to target and reduce street drinking, including ASB warnings and the use of PSPO powers to confiscate alcohol.

“The CPTF has a constant and visible presence in ASB hotspots across the borough, and they will always use enforcement action as a last resort when other engagement methods have not solved the issue.

Street-drinking has long been a concern for officials, and it played a part in the decision to refuse a business owner’s request to extend his licensing hours from 11pm until 2am the following day.

Haydar Sal, who owns Ilford Food and Grocery in Cranbrook Road, had argued that there were already five other shops selling alcohol into the early hours and he was losing business.

But the licensing committee declined his request, despite his protests, citing fears it would undermine crime prevention measures.

Alongside the PSPO, Ilford falls under a designated ‘cumulative impact zone’ (CIZ), which says that a high concentration of licensed shops in one area can have a detrimental effect on the council’s ability to prevent crime and public nuisance.

Licence applications made within the CIZ are expected to be refused.

PC Dean Birch warned during the meeting: “We know Ilford has an issue with street drinking. If this is granted, it’s highly likely those current issues will grow.”

Camille Barker, from Redbridge Public Health, told the committee that “responsible drinkers” were not buying alcohol at those hours.

She said: “I understand this is about business, but this is a chance to stop premises increasing these sales.”

Haydar had also requested the freedom to sell alcohol in 10CL (100ml) bottles, reducing the previously imposed limit of a 35CL (350ml) minimum. The committee approved the change.

Now in its sixth month, the Ilford public space protection order will be in place until October 2026.
It covers the Ilford Town ward, as well as Valentines, Clementswood, Loxford, Barkingside and Cranbrook.

As part of the crackdown, residents can also report antisocial behaviour directly to the council.
The council spokesperson added: “We have made it easier for people to play a part in maintaining the safety of our town centres.

“Our website now features a ‘report it’ link, where they can submit reports of antisocial behaviour. These reports are directly channelled to our enforcement teams, who will promptly allocate resources to address the issue, ensuring residents’ concerns are heard and acted upon.”

Ilford is not alone in the introduction of a PSPO to curb antisocial behaviour.

Similar orders tackling street drinking, aggressive begging and ‘nuisance’ groups have been implemented in Romford, Barking, and across Waltham Forest.

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Sebastian Mann

Local democracy reporter