The findings, based on a report by insight consultancy Britain Thinks, identified a successful NTE as one with ‘atmosphere and buzz’, but emphasised the need to attract a diverse, multi-generational crowd.
The in-depth research analysed the findings of 19 members of the public, who were split into two groups of nine and visited Nottingham and Exeter by night. The perceptions of stakeholders including licensing managers, police officers, bar and club managers, and street pastors were also taken into account.
Late-night coffee shops and activities for under-18s to encourage inter-generational mixing were found to be key to creating a lively, relaxed atmosphere, alongside late-night shopping, street entertainers and pop-up food stalls.
The report, titled 'Encouraging a thriving and diverse night-time economy', also identified a perception of increased rowdiness in town centres over the past 20 years due to the move away from clubbing to a late-night pub culture.
“You used to get people contained in clubs,” said one participant. “They would go not just to drink but to dance. Now the bars spill out onto the pavement. If you’re trying to get somewhere it’s a problem.”
The report asserted that a successful night-time economy could boost trade, make a town exciting, strengthen communities as well as draw in young people.
Incidents of violence and disorder, pavements being taken over by drinkers, a lack of safe, reliable and affordable transport home and dark, dirty empty streets were cited as downsides.
Recommendations included creating a safe, clean environment for people to visit with increased CCTV, Purple Flag schemes and visible police patrols/tax marshals. Other suggestions were improving the appeal of a town centre with imaginative lighting and the use of open spaces and local architecture.
“The public are enthusiastic about the value of a thriving night-time economy, but there are a number of steps that have to be in place,” said Britain Thinks research director Anastasia Knox.
“Firstly, the environment must be safe and clean. Secondly, the place must be visually appealing. Thirdly, it must have the ability to attract a diverse crowd, including people of different ages. Finally, the offer must be exciting and reflect the character of the place.”
Portman Group chief executive John Timothy added: “A vibrant and dynamic night time economy brings real benefits to local communities and to local economies. This report provides a practical and achievable set of steps to deliver the town centres we all want to see.
“Critically, to achieve this it stresses the need for partnership working by all stakeholders, including local authorities and businesses. Portman Group members and partners are already supporting a range of initiatives to improve town and city centres across the UK and are committed to doing more to create safer, more sustainable and more successful night-time destinations.”
The report was welcomed by the Association of Multiple Licensed Retailers (ALMR), whose chief executive Kate Nicholls said thriving night-time economies could be “fantastic assets to town and city centres”.
“Promotion of voluntary and partnership schemes such as Purple Flag can help improve areas and offerings which, in turn, can facilitate investment and support the local economy,” said Nicholls.
“A proactive approach from both businesses and local authorities, working together, can have a fantastically positive effect on a town’s late-night economy. This attitude of collaboration promoted in the Portman Group’s report is the approach the ALMR has been promoting with local authorities and will benefit all parties far greater than heavy-handed legislation.”