Barnet Council will press ahead with a move towards tougher alcohol licensing rules in a bid to crack down on crime and anti-social behaviour.

Council officers are laying the groundwork for a special zone designed to limit the number of shops and other venues given alcohol licences in Burnt Oak, Edgware.

The area suffers from a high rate of crime and anti-social behaviour – and council officers believe this could be linked to a large number of shops and other venues selling alcohol.

Councillors at a meeting of the licensing committee on Thursday (May 2) gave the green light to work towards the roll-out of a ‘cumulative impact zone’ (CIZ) in Burnt Oak.

These zones make it easier for councillors to turn down applications to sell alcohol in areas where there are already a large number of licensed premises.

Burnt Oak had the highest rate of alcohol-related violent crime in Barnet borough during the last 12 months.

But some members questioned whether the move was necessary – and suggested it could merely lead to crime and anti-social behaviour problems being pushed out to neighbouring areas.

The council last year gave the police extra powers to tackle street drinking in Burnt Oak, and some offences – including street drinking and anti-social behaviour – have recently fallen.

Cllr Danny Rich, Labour member for West Finchley, said: “As far as I understand it, we are already making good progress in Burnt Oak. Is there a fear that somehow this is overkill?”

Emma Phasey, the council’s group manager for community protection, said there was “good progress being made” in the area.

But she added: “If this (CIZ) is in place, we will hopefully have more control. It is future-proofing the work we are doing.”

Ms Phasey admitted it was possible that the problems could be displaced to other areas.

She said: “If so, it is something we will have to pick up.

“It is possible they will displace out of the borough. However, if Harrow do something there, they might displace back in.

“Harrow are aware we are doing this. They are a bit further behind us with the work they are doing.”

Ms Phasey said CIZs could be introduced in other problem areas across the borough if the Burnt Oak scheme is a success.

Conservative member for Mill Hill Cllr Jon Hart said: “It is obvious, it seems to me, that there is a proliferation of outlets of drink – every little shop wants a licence.

“We can only influence this by seeking to influence future legislation.

“Any decision we make here could be used as evidence to persuade the government to change things so that, for instance, there are only a certain number of outlets with licences per 1,000 of population.

“It seems to me it would be very useful. We would at least have a tool to say ‘no, sorry, there are too many outlets in this area’.”

Councillors agreed the report’s recommendations to pursue a CIZ in the Burnt Oak ward.

Officers will continue to gather evidence and carry out a consultation before a final decision is made on the CIZ.