Colchester is a historic market and garrison town where the council has led a significant amount of partnership work to manage the night-time economy. This includes becoming a Local Alcohol Action Area, and taking part in nationally recognised schemes such as Purple Flag and Pubwatch.
Colchester has a vibrant and well managed night-time economy. However, it also has some challenges such aggressive begging, street drinking, drug use/selling and over 5,000 soldiers based at the nearby Colchester Garrison.
In order to overcome these challenges Colchester has launched a variety of innovative partnership projects such as:
A multi-agency Town Centre Action Plan (TCAP). This was implemented to tackle criminal and anti-social behaviour (ASB) and includes a range of measures both operational and strategic aimed at targeting high profile issues. As part of this funding was secured to implement ‘Team 10’, which is a dedicated resource, made up of Essex Police, Colchester Borough Council and Colchester Borough Homes (the housing service).
The team meet weekly to discuss cases of criminal activity or anti-social behaviour. Between 50 and 70 hours per week of patrols and activity focused on the town centre are undertaken, focussing on hotspots including car parks and those individuals involved in criminal behaviour and ASB. Extra officers work during busy weekends to ensure people can enjoy a safe night out in Colchester.
Licensing Policy: Colchester have enhanced their Licensing Policy to include more guidance for licensees on how they manage their business, what the Local Authority would like to see in the town centre. The policy also includes a pavement policy, and sets out how the council works with partners, including around enforcement. Licensing officers are part of the councils noise night duty team which operates every weekend except for Christmas. Where no noise complaints are received, the team carry out spot checks on businesses and investigate any licensed premise that may be on the watch list for further investigation under the Licensing Enforcement Group (LEG).
Colchester also holds regular training for venues, officers and councillors on the Licensing Act. In 2017 Colchester deployed a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) covering the whole town centre, the focus of the Colchester PSPO is to reduce antisocial behaviour such as urination, defecation and intoxicating substances in the open air, preventing people being intoxicated and causing annoyance and aggressive and intimidating begging. This is supported by a night duty rota running throughout the week until 1am.
Nights of Action: Colchester deliver quarterly Nights of Action, which run on Friday or Saturday nights from 9.00pm to 3.00am involving high visibility patrols in partnership with Essex Police, council licensing, Zone wardens, environmental health, the noise team, parking inspectors and the Security Industry Authority (SIA). They carry out joint enforcement inspections in the town centre ensuring premises have risk assessments, and are adhering to licence conditions, taxi and private hire checks. This sends out a clear message to both businesses and users of the night time economy.
Licensing Enforcement Group (LEG): The LEG meets on a monthly basis and is a partnership approach to managing premises where issues have arisen. The group discusses each premises and creates an improvement action plan that is agreed with the venue and works with them to achieve it. The LEG has been successful in identifying and resolving issues early often avoiding the need for enforcement action. Businesses who choose to work with the LEG state that it has improved the perception of their businesses whilst helping them to operate better.
The LEG consists of the licensing food and safety manager, the licensing enforcement officer, police licensing, police, military police, fire and rescue, environmental protection, community safety, planning, building control and zones team. As required, it also includes the premises, Student Union, Street Pastors and the SOS bus.
Colchester has seen improved relationships with the night-time economy businesses and the wider partnership, with each partner having clear processes and responsibilities, and operating with standard procedures.
The Nights of Action have resulted in:
- a number of taxi and private hire licences being issued points or suspended.
- Identification of cases of modern-day slavery with investigations launched.
- Closure of a food shop following a failed inspection.
- Warnings issued by the SIA where SIA staff are not complying with the law.
- Enforcement action taken against professional street beggars resulting in the begging being stopped and drugs confiscated after a drugs dog operation.
It is crucial to adapt your approach as new issues emerge or existing ones change. Working in partnership is key, as one organisation can’t solve the issues on its own. It is essential to link the day and night together; creating a diverse audience where families and other groups feel welcome is helpful.