The mention in the last Newsletter of the 'Night Time Economy' (NTE) raises an important topic which is starting to be researched and understood. We should all be interested in the welfare and future of Ipswich's town centre, even if we claim not to go out in the evening. The NTE is an indicator of the health of a town's success or failure to manage its services and facilities. Too often evenings and nights in town centres are characterised as populated by vodka-pop swilling louts, but the NTE actually represents a wide range of important opportunities for Ipswich.
The NTE can be defined as the economic, social and business activities which occur between 6pm and 6am ('after dark'). These include the operation of restaurants, theatres, pubs, clubs, football stadiums, cinemas, concerts and other cultural activities. These aspects of the economy are often overlooked, yet they are crucial drivers of tourism, leisure and business growth. It is estimated that the UK's NTE employs 1.3m people and contributes £66bn to the UK economy. Not only do these NTE industries provide taxes for our local authorities, although Central Government takes its share. but there are other employment and economic outputs. Of course there are also costs associated with the NTE, including policing, vandalism, cleaning and healthcare. Only by researching the net effects can it be shown that for most towns and cities, the benefits can contribute much more than most of us would acknowledge. These NTE industries provide jobs and wealth but also deliver social and community benefits too. The key is to have a night time experience which is safe and conducive to the local population and economy.
The Cardinal Park area is an example of some of this activity being concentrated with restaurants, cinemas, bars and nightclubs within a short walk. This is in contrast to more isolated parts of Ipswich such as the Wolsey Theatre or the Regent Theatre which are comparatively cut off from the town centre. Additional considerations to this include traffic, pedestrian flows, customer perceptions and popularity of the services on offer.
Ipswich has gained full Association of Town Centre Managers' Purple Flag accreditation. This means that the "centre is managing its night time experience and thus helps overcome any negative public perceptions that may exist." The Purple Flag also helps to promote areas like Ipswich's centre, attracting residents, new businesses, tourists and visitors. The Purple Flag accreditation has built upon the national Best Bar None scheme "promoting responsible management and operation of alcohol licensed premises." Whilst there are challenges to managing a night time economy, the benefits in getting it right can extend beyond simply the expandable pockets of chains like Wetherspoons!