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Approaches to managing the night-time economy: Case Studies: Chester

23 Oct 2019

At the beginning of 2019, we were approached and commissioned by the Local Government Association (LGA) to write eleven best practise case studies on managing the night-time economy. This publication brings together examples of initiatives driven by councils and their partners which have sought to address the issues they have faced locally and we will be sharing the case studies over the next few months.

We will be starting with Chester who have been working to effectively reduce levels of alcohol harm through partnership work. Chester city centre has been awarded Purple Flag status for two years in a row. Alongside the Purple Flag steering group, the council set up a Night-time Economy Task Group to work towards improving the night-time economy to ensure that it offers a safe and enjoyable experience for all.

Overview:

In 2010 the new Cheshire West and Chester Council was formed and the practises of three district councils needed merging which offered the opportunity to look strategically at how they could improve the night-time economy. The city had high levels of alcohol related harm and councillors wanted to ensure all appropriate legal powers were used to effectively manage the night-time economy and support the council’s public health objectives. The council had a number of ambitions, including securing Purple Flag accreditation and boosting tourism and footfall in the city centre. Since then a number of new initiatives have been launched in Chester, driven by the establishment of a business improvement district (BID) in the city who worked in partnership with the council to set up the Purple Flag steering committee. The council’s Places Overview and Scrutiny Committee also appointed a Night-time Economy Task Group.

Initiatives:

Purple Flag – Chester’s Purple Flag Steering Committee has a clear work plan where the standards, key achievements and future improvements are reviewed monthly as a strategic partnership. The steering group brings together the council’s public health, CH1ChesterBID, the police, Chester Pubwatch, the University of Chester, fire and rescue services, Chester Against Business Crime and Chester Street Pastors. As a result, Chester has achieved the following pioneering projects:

Drink Less Enjoy More – funded by public health, Cheshire and Merseyside local authorities and police work together on this initiative, which aims to reduce drunkenness through targeted communications and marketing activity aimed at university students and those aged 18 to 30. The project supports bar staff to comply with the law by providing training. Funding is provided for extra police patrols, as well as test purchasing using actors specifically around sales to drunks. Cheshire West and Chester Council communications team also worked closely with key partners (the University of Chester, Chester Racecourse, Chester Pride, the police and community safety team) to raise the profile of the campaign. Safe Space – funded by Cheshire West and Chester Council’s public health, the safe space is a mobile unit launched in Chester city centre in September 2018. Operating on Saturday nights with paramedics, volunteers and security staff, it provides immediate first aid and pastoral support for vulnerable people. Chester Reducing levels of alcohol harm through partnership work.

Night-time Economy Task Group – tasked by the council’s Places Overview and Scrutiny Committee, the group was set up to audit the management of the night-time economy from a licensing perspective and ensure that they were doing everything possible to effectively manage it. Membership consisted of councillors, officers and partner organisations. The group met four times and took two evening tours of Chester city centre and a tour of four other local areas (Ellesmere Port, Winsford, Northwich and Frodsham). They sent out questionnaires to all of the Cheshire and Merseyside authorities, together with York and Bath, to benchmark themselves against similar areas. There were 14 detailed questions covering resources, controls, governance, best practice and safety schemes. Analysis of these generated eight key recommendations, including the consideration of additional conditions, such as membership of best practice accreditation schemes (eg Best Bar None), public health taking a more active role in the licensing regime, such as making risk-based representations on new premises licence applications and the council directing new applicants to best practice policies and partnerships available through the licensing team.

Safe Space – funded by Cheshire West and Chester Council’s public health, the safe space is a mobile unit launched in Chester city centre in September 2018. Operating on Saturday nights with paramedics, volunteers and security staff, it provides immediate first aid and pastoral support for vulnerable people. Chester Reducing levels of alcohol harm through partnership work 6 Approaches to managing the night-time economy

The outcomes

Chester has secured Purple Flag accreditation for two consecutive years, which has given Chester city centre a coherent strategy and motivation to improve the night-time economy.

Chester has excellent partnership working, strengthened by a united vision. According to a Chester BID survey nearly 70 per cent of people now feel safe in Chester at night, which is a significant improvement.

Very few premises licence reviews have been instigated, because of the partnership approach.

The Safe Space has helped one hundred and ninety-six people and has diverted sixty-seven individuals away from emergency services since its launch in October 2018. It has prevented low level crime and provided valuable intelligence on substances being consumed and drink spiking.

Drink Less Enjoy More resulted in 107 bar staff and a further 30 senior staff and supervisors being trained in how to spot signs of drunkenness. Throughout 2018, a training video was shown during bar set up every day. The sale of alcohol to drunks reduced by nine per cent, the purchase of alcohol to drunk people reduced by more than 17 per cent across all venues when compared to control areas.

Whilst significant budget has been spent on these initiatives, the partnership believes the preventative effect of these actions will dramatically reduce costs in other areas.

The Purple Flag group meets on a regular basis to maintain energy for the project and ensure the necessary funding streams are in place, eg for the Safe Space.

Learning

Partnership working and good working relationships with key stakeholders is essential but can be fragile as they rely on individuals. When people leave, it’s vital to give successors a comprehensive briefing, introducing them to key stakeholders and explaining the wider partnership to secure buy-in. A good relationship with public health and planning is important, opening up new funding streams.

The full report can be found here however if you have any questions on elements of this case study please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us on info@nighttimeeconomy.com.

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