Doubling the size of a seafront nightclub could cut violent crime in Brighton, a public inquiry was told.

Increasing the capacity of the soon-to-be-built Cream club, in Aquarium Terraces, from 902 to 1,750 would lead to fewer street brawls by taking pressure off the town centre, it was claimed.

But Brighton and Hove Council, which has already granted permission for smaller premises, is opposing revised plans by Aquarium Entertainments Ltd. Aquarium is appealing against the decision. Backed by Sussex Police, the council says crime and disorder would rise in nearby Kemp Town.

However, retired Metropolitan Police chief superintendent Richard Hebberd said turning Cream into Brighton's second-largest club would take some of the strain away from the busy West Street area.

He said: "You get cluster groups where people get out of pubs or clubs and remain a long time. You get congestion where there are lots of people moving around. That's where the trouble tends to be concentrated. It is unlikely this clustering or congestion would take place near the Aquarium Terraces. It is hundreds of yards from any major clubs."

If approved, Cream will be second only to the 1,950-capacity Event II club. Residents in Kemp Town have bombarded the council with objections, saying a larger club would destroy the character of a conservation area.

But Mr Hebberd told the inquiry at Brighton Town Hall: "The increase in capacity at Aquarium Terraces is unlikely to result in an increase in crime and violence in Brighton."

The nightclub plans also include restaurants, terraced seating and a pub. The inquiry is expected to run until Friday.

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