POTENT alcopops and underage drinking are turning Blackburn town centre into a violent no-go area for most people, according to a pubs' group.

And pub and nightclub owner Margo Grimshaw backed the chairman of Blackburn's Licensed Victuallers Association, Derek Howarth, who believes increased police surveillance of troublespots is the key to a safer town at weekends.

Mrs Grimshaw said she believed the problem could be alleviated with a broader mix of age groups drinking together in the same pubs and clubs.

She said: "The town centre is becoming a young people's area because of the late opening hours. Young people who haven't learned to drink sensibly. If there is a good mix of young people and older people that has a balancing effect.

"But youth and drink and a lack of a stabilising influence makes for trouble."

And Mrs Grimshaw said the proliferation of alcoholic fruit drinks were too blame for a lot of the trouble.

She said: "The drinks company are giving out the wrong signals. When young people are out in the pubs late they drink alco-pops which are too strong."

She added that additional surveillance equipment in the town would improve the situation, but stressed the importance of having bobbies on the beat.

She said: "If the town centre was well-lit and well-monitored that would help. And a larger police presence helps us a great deal when people are outside clubs on the streets. Mr Howarth said: "A major problem within the town centre is underage drinking. Years ago people used to just drink pints of bitter but now it's all alco-pops and the stronger stuff, all 5.5%, with them throwing it down their necks.

"We need more CCTV."