BEXLEY'S use of new powers under the Licensing Act, to crack down on anti-social drinking, have been stepped up.

Councillors are homing in on the borough's three major troublespots of Bexleyheath and Welling town centres and Bexley Village to bring in tighter controls on licensed premises.

On Monday it launched a three-month consultation on whether to bring in a "saturation policy" under the Act to apply to all three areas.

A saturation policy would allow the council's licensing committee to refuse any new drinks licences to premises within the three specified areas, and refuse any material changes to existing licences.

To bring in the policy, the council has to believe the concentration of licensed premises in an area is damaging the licensing objectives of preventing crime, disorder and public nuisance, protection of children and public safety.

There have been concerns for some time, especially in Bexleyheath town centre, the number and concentration of licensed premises has fuelled drunkenness and disorder.

Any applicant in an area where a saturation policy is in place would have to demonstrate their new or amended licence would not add to the impact already being experienced.

The need for a new pub, club, restaurant or off-licence in an area would not be considered by the licensing committee but would be a matter for the council's planning committee to consider.

The council's move is being backed by Bexley police, which says Bexleyheath Broadway, where there are 54 licensed premises, is their major area of concern.

Three of those premises, the Rat and Parrot, Lloyds No 1 and RSVP (formerly Yates's), can hold almost 2,500 people between them.

Welling town centre has 40 licensed premises and Bexley Village has 23.

Chief Inspector of operations Steve Murrant said it had already become necessary to introduce measures to try and curb drink-fuelled disorder.

Alcohol control zones have been introduced in Bexleyheath and Bexley Village and dispersal zones in Welling and Bexleyheath.

He said any increase in numbers "is likely to exacerbate the problems already present".

As well as authorities such as fire, health and neighbouring councils, club and pub owners, residents' and business groups and community forms will be consulted.

The results will be discussed at a licensing committee meeting in March next year.