IT was once regarded as Southampton’s equivalent to London’s trendy Soho. Packed with independent, chic bars and restaurants, Bedford Place was the place to be seen in the city.

That title is now in serious danger of slipping as the destination has gained a new reputation – as one of the worst in Hampshire for antisocial behaviour.

Daily Echo: Click below to see a video of today's headlines in sixty seconds

A designated student night each Tuesday has seen the streets blighted by drunken brawls and littered with smashed glass, takeaway trash and vomit.

Residents are enduring sleepless nights, police resources are stretched to their limit and Southampton City Council is left to clean up the mess.

Reported incidents of violent crime, ranging from minor public disorder offences to GBH, increased by 66 per cent in three months.

Police figures show that from April to June there were a total of 79 incidents in the Bedford Place area and this rose to 131 between July and September.

The spike in crime and disorder on Tuesday nights has been fuelled by a booze price war between rival pubs and bars, according to police and the council.

University students and city locals alike are being lured by 2-4-1 promotions, free shots, and £1 pints and spirit mixers.

Selected booze is being sold at about half the regular weekend price and Tuesdays have now almost overtaken Saturdays as the city’s busiest night.

Health experts attacked bars and clubs for encouraging dangerous levels of drinking by selling booze at “pocket money prices”.

Cllr Royston Smith, deputy leader of the council, said: “I’m absolutely convinced the crime and disorder has been fuelled by cut-price drinks.”

While they have no power to stop the drink promotions, the council has told licensees they could be shut down if the situation does not improve.

Cllr Smith added: “If they continue to cause disruption and play hard and fast with people’s health then they are going to get some back – and we are going to do that within the law.”

Last month, the council and police distributed a letter to drinkers in the area urging them to consider spending the night in another part of the city.

It stated: “Over the past few months we have had particular problems within and outside pubs and clubs in this vicinity, and we feel that we have a duty to warn you about these problems, which have included assaults, and advise you to consider whether you wish to drink in this area.”

Police bosses were forced to lay on 25 extra officers to deal with the chaos on one Tuesday night, but they’ve warned that the high levels of policing cannot be sustained.

Over the Hallowe’en weekend two mounted officers riding giant Clydesdale horses were drafted in as part of a larger campaign to crack down on city centre violence.

“They are trying to compete in a very competitive market against some very big players, but overall I don’t think the trade takes responsibility for what it does,” Inspector Phil Bates, from Southampton police, said.

“It comes at a cost and it’s not something we can sustain, so it is something that the trade needs to take responsibility for.”

Sarah Matthews, from the British Liver Trust, said that 55 people a week in Southampton were admitted to hospital because of alcohol.

“Bars and clubs do have a responsibility in promoting alcohol responsibly,” she said.

“The British Liver Trust would urge them to consider the health impact and collateral that they encourage by offering alcohol at such pocket money prices.”

Ms Matthews said that almost 5,000 people each year die from alcohol-related liver disease.

“There is no denying that there is a clear link between cheap alcohol and the amount we drink,” she said.

Four page investigation inside today's Daily Echo, including stories on:

How did get so bad?
The benefits of a large student population
• Will price hikes solve the problems?
• Students have their say
• Police view on the booze problem
Harassed by drunk students after heart surgery
• The cost of the clean-up
• Why is booze so cheap on weeknights?