To provide input into the Council’s Evening & Night Time Economy Strategy ahead of it being presented to Cabinet in September 2018.
The Committee were given the opportunity to provide input into the development of the Evening & Night Time Economy Strategy, which aimed to overcome the challenges facing local businesses and communities in Croydon’s night time economy. Given that the Strategy covered areas in a number of Portfolio’s, the following Cabinet Members were in attendance for this item:
· Councillor Hamida Ali – Cabinet Member for Safer Croydon & Communities
· Councillor Oliver Lewis – Cabinet Member for Culture, Sport & Leisure
· Councillor Manju Shahul-Hameed – Cabinet Member for Economy & Jobs
During the introduction of the Strategy it was noted that it had been informed by seven night time walkabout events across the Borough to gain an understanding of the night time economy in different areas. From these it had been concluded that there were significant differences between the town and district centres, but signposting and wayfaring were common issues.
Potential actions for inclusion in the strategy included the addition of a Night Time Business Award in the Mayor’s Civic Awards, the possibility of Night Markets, strengthening support for businesses and an exploration of the late night shopping offer.
Although the Council would not be able to directly affect every aspect of the night time economy it would be able to act as a key influencer. One area that the Council could directly influence would be through its regulatory services such as licensing and food standards. Community Safety would also be important to promote the perception of safety across the borough.
Current strengths in the night time economy included a number of diverse venues such a Ludoquist and Box Park, a good calendar of coordinated events in the borough and a well-established restaurant quarter in the Croydon. Weaknesses included the perception of crime and safety within the borough, inconsistent lighting along key walkways, transport links across the borough were not as useful as they could be in the evening/night time, litter and refuse collection needed to be improved, planning and licensing were seen to be a barrier and there was a perception that the borough was in transition with a number of vacant sites.
Future opportunities for the evening and night time economy included the regeneration plans for the town centre, the reopening of the Fairfield Halls, planned public realm improvements which will deliver improved signage and the possibility of a university in the borough. Potential threats to the night time economy came from crime and the perception of crime in the borough, a lack of confidence slowing growth, falling income levels from Brexit, rising rents and business rate increases which placed further pressure on businesses.
It was noted that there had previously been a Night Time Economy Strategy in 2007 and as such it was questioned how the new strategy would differ from the previous one. It was highlighted that there had been significant change in the economy since 2007, with an increasing trend for low and no alcohol offer. The Council’s Licensing Policy had been reviewed in the last year to take into account the changes in the night time economy, which had previously focussed on tackling the challenge from a clustering of licensed premises.
It was also noted that many of the challenges facing the night time economy were longstanding and the strategy would not directly provide the solution to these, but it should be viewed as a starting point for the Council to work with partners to deliver change. It was also important that the strategy was informed by businesses across the district centres.
The issue of women’s safety and whether there was a barrier to women participating in the night time economy was raised and as such it was questioned whether a specific focus was needed in the strategy. It was highlighted that the Council had a good record in this area having been awarded White Ribbon Borough Status. Women’s Safety was also a priority for the Police. It was agreed that further consideration would be given as to how this work could be reflected in the strategy.
It was noted that for the night time economy to be successful it needed to attract people from outside of the borough to visit. As the perception of crime had previously been raised as a potential threat to the delivery of the strategy, it was questioned what could be done to provide assurance that Croydon was safe place to visit. In response it was advised that although it was important to be mindful of the fear of crime, it was difficult to change people’s perceptions. The Borough Commander for the Police had looked at this issue and changed the type of policing away from a strong visible presence as a result.
In response to a question about what the Council could do to support local businesses during the transition period when the new Westfield Centre was built, it was highlighted that there had been concerns during the building of the Westfield Centre in Stratford, but since it had moved to the area footfall had increased and businesses were thriving. There were a number of different ideas in development to promote local businesses and ensure there were a wide programme of events. Consideration was also being given to promoting events linked to festivals such as Eid and Diwali.
It was questioned whether there had been a disability representative on the Steering Group for the strategy. It was advised that there had not, but any input would be welcomed.
It was suggested that the strategy would benefit from increased data on the demographics of potential customers to ensure that it was pitched at the right level. It was advised that a survey had been undertaken as part of the process, but limited resources meant that large scale research was not possible. It was also emphasised that it was essential the strategy was delivered in conjunction with partners and included a shared vision of what it was trying to achieve.
In response to a suggestion that the report was more economically driven rather that culturally driven, it was highlighted that a Cultural Strategy was being prepared to sit alongside the Evening and Night Time Economy Strategy.
Although the report mentioned the diverse offer within the borough, a concern was raised that the report did not place enough emphasis on the diversity of the borough. It was acknowledged that the diversity of the borough could be made more explicit within the strategy as diversity was of key importance, with it highlighted that the Licensing Policy had introduced a need for a diversity of offer.
It was highlighted that the conversion of commercial premises to residential use had reduced the supply of potential venues and as such it was questioned whether consideration should be given to how best protect smaller venues. It was confirmed that this could be delivered through working with planning colleagues to ensure planning policies were aligned with the strategy.
In conclusion it was agreed that the Strategy needed to have a focus on deliverable outcomes which could be used to gauge its success, with a suggestion that SMART Objectives could be used. It was noted that the report would be considered by the Cabinet in either March or April 2019.
In forming its recommendations, the Committee reached the following conclusions:
1. It was recognised that a significant amount of work had gone into the development of the strategy.
2. The attendance of three Cabinet Members at the Committee meeting for the discussion of item demonstrated a commendable openness to challenge.
3. The Committee were keen to emphasise that deliverable outcomes would be key to the success of the strategy.
4. The Committee agreed that the strategy needed to represent the diversity of the borough.
The Committee RESOLVED to recommend to the respective Cabinet Members:-
1. That the Evening and Night Time Economy strategy had SMART, deliverable outcomes.
2. That the Strategy retained a strong focus across the borough and not just the town centre.
3. That the strategy reflected the diversity of the Borough.