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Legal landscape: A manifesto for the night-time economy

Town centre at night

The night-time economy is a big employer and tourist draw, yet many town centres are "alcohol-driven monocultures". Philip Kolvin QC argues the case for a 'manifesto' that will guide planning for night-time economies

The Manifesto for the Night Time Economy (PDF), which I will be discussing at the Sound Development conference in London on 6 September, is a guide for policy-makers on how to create a great night-time economy (NTE).

The NTE is worth £66 billion. It provides jobs for more than 1.3 million people. It is one of the biggest employers of young people. It is integral to the tourist draw of the UK. It is the inspiration for, and foundation of, much of our creative industries. It is the driver for supply chains of vital importance to local economies. Most important, it is the place where we celebrate and reaffirm our common humanity.

But local policy on the NTE, whether planning or licensing, is more usually about regulation than placemaking. This is probably because, in the minds of policy-makers, NTE = alcohol = binge drinking = crime and disorder. But with good planning, the NTE can be a far more heterogeneous environment to attract all sectors of the community.

"The best night time economies involve great centres that feel safe, welcoming and accessible"

The manifesto calls for a strategic approach, starting with a vision for the NTE, carried into action by a night-time champion with the standing to bring public and private sector stakeholders together and translate vision into action, guided by both planning and licensing policies that explicitly recognise and promote the NTE.

The best NTEs involve great centres that feel safe, welcoming and accessible. So design is a crucial component. They are usually also underpinned by partnership measures which foster safe environments. The UK has many, including Best Bar None, Purple Flag, night-time BIDs and Street Pastors. Regulation is crucial, but should be used as a last resort where partnership has failed.

Crucially, NTEs should be for everyone, whatever their interests. Authorities should find out who is not coming in, and why, and should work to ensure that their centres at night are attractive to all. An important component of that is to bridge the daytime and night-time economies with services and leisure offers that keep people in the centre after work, so creating a more social, heterogeneous environment.

Sadly, many town centres are, and are seen as, alcohol-driven monocultures attractive to one sector of the community and a drain on public resources. Life does not need to be that way. But it takes the same expertise and rigour as drives our planning for retail and housing. I hope that the Manifesto  will gain some traction in town halls to help to make great leisure environments for the benefit of all.

Philip Kolvin QC is head of Cornerstone Barristers. He specialises in licensing law, acting for operators and local authorities nationwide.

Philip will present his manifesto at the Sound Development conference on 6 September. The conference is organised by Sound Diplomacy and supported by The Planner.

Manifesto for the Night Time Economy: The principles

  1. Every town shall have a vision for its night-time economy.
  2. Every town shall have an identified night-time champion.
  3. Every town will bring together a partnership of authorities, operators, residents and users to realise the vision.
  4. Every town shall have a leisure strategy to attain the vision.
  5. National and local planning policies should promote and protect the NTE.
  6. Town centres should be designed to enhance the user experience.
  7. Voluntary social responsibility schemes should be promoted.
  8. National and local licensing policies should translate the leisure strategy into action.
  9. Regulatory action should be a last resort, based on transparent evidential standards.
  10. The public and private sectors should work to change the perception of town centres so as to build the diversity of users.
  11. There should be greater integration of day and night-time uses.
  12. There should be common standards of training for both operators and regulators.

Photo credit | iStock


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