RESIDENTS fed up of late-night drunken behaviour say they hope a turning point has been reached in the licensing policy for bars in Cowley Road.

Oxford City Council has just turned down an application from the Milano Bar for longer opening hours under a saturation policy to manage the large number of licensed premises in the area.

Last night the decision was welcomed by Green city councillor Craig Simmons, who said it was one of the few times in recent years that an application for extended licensing hours in East Oxford had been turned down.

The councillor, who lives in Magdalen Road and represents St Mary’s ward, said he hoped the decision would set a precedent.

He said: “Milano wanted to extend their opening hours and I have got nothing against them as an individual business. But I think the council should stick to the saturation policy and that’s why I objected.

“Long suffering residents have finally been listened to.”

Last Thursday the council’s licensing committee refused the bar’s application to extend its hours so it could stay open from 10am to 1am from Sunday to Thursday, and from 10am to 2am on Fridays and Saturdays.

The committee said the bar would have to stick to its current opening hours, closing at 11pm from Sunday to Thursday, and at 1am on Friday and Saturday.

Milano manager Fkender Drizi said: “We are very disappointed because other premises have been granted changes. We are considering appealing in court.”

The council introduced the special saturation policy in 2010 because of the large number of clubs and bars in the area, and Mr Simmons said: “I’m pleased the policy is now being adhered to.”

In June, a planning application by the O2 Academy to open earlier was turned down following objections from residents, but Mr Simmons said other premises had been granted changes, including Cowley Retreat and Bar Aroma.

Ed Chipperfield, 36, of James Street, spokesman for the East Oxford Residents’ Association Forum, said: “I hope this is now a turning point.”

Colin Cook, a member of the council’s licensing committee, said: “All individual applications are based on their merits.

“We have been referring to the saturation policy since it was introduced and review it every year. It is always taken into account when relevant.

“We are keen to encourage small businesses in Cowley Road and when good quality restaurants come forward for a licence I would hope the licensing committee would be sympathetic to them. Restaurants often do not cause the problems that other drinking establishments have.

“If there is no evidence from the police that an application will cause problems we can’t refuse it on a whim.”