Establishing a safe space for everyone

Establishing a safe space for everyone

Evening and night-time visitors to Weston-super-Mare’s town centre can be confident they are in safe hands once the sun goes down.

The town centre has received the prestigious Purple Flag award for the last two years and work is continually being done to improve even further.

The Purple Flag standard, launched in 2012, is an accreditation process similar to the Green Flag award for parks and the Blue Flag for beaches. It allows members of the public to identify town and city centres that offer an entertaining, diverse, safe and enjoyable night out.

A joint submission by North Somerset Council, Avon and Somerset Police and the Weston Business Improvement District (BID) has now been made to retain the flag for a third year.

Highlights of the past year include…
  • There are currently no licensed premises rated red or amber (poorly managed/raising concerns) under the licensed premises ‘traffic light’ scheme. This is opposed to 15 identified when the scheme began in 2015
  • Figures from January to September last year showed a 12 per cent reduction in crime and disorder compared to the previous year, the third year in a row it’s fallen
  • An average of between four and eight people are treated on MAVISbus each night it is out, reducing the strain on other emergency services.

Howard Pothecary North Somerset Council’s community safety manager, said: “We want to provide a safe, enjoyable and friendly evening and night-time economy for everyone, while promoting good trade and tourism and reducing demand on police and clinical services.”

The town centre has undergone dramatic regeneration in the past year, with the Italian Gardens refurbished and Dolphin Square opening. At the northern end of the High Street, pedestrian links between the Italian Gardens, seafront and High Street have been enhanced to create a Continental-style square which is being used day and night throughout the year.

State-of-the-art lighting at ground level, and an illuminated water feature, have been incorporated into the design to create a stimulating, safe and accessible environment. A stage is also built into the design and has been used for a range of musical and performance events.

Weston town centre and BID manager Steve Townsend said: “We have been able to work in partnership to ensure that the regeneration improves the experience of any visitor during the evening or night-time.”

Last summer the distinctive purple MAVISbus (multi-agency vehicle in service) was out every Saturday night from April to September, thanks to a group of volunteers from St John Ambulance. Throughout the winter it continues to be out for all Saturdays after pay-day and other Saturday nights when high demand is anticipated.

The Safer Stronger Communities bus provides a platform for agencies to offer immediate, highly-visible assistance and a safe place to vulnerable people. It is used by the police, ambulance, street wardens, street pastors, council licensing officers and other local agencies after dark to offer general help to visitors to the town.

Howard said: “Feedback from all staff and users is incredibly positive. It has become somewhere for vulnerable people to stay safe or receive treatment, somewhere for all agencies to work from and share information in the heart of town and also a highly visible deterrent to those looking to cause trouble.”

Work has also been done to improve the perception of Weston town centre. High-visibility policing continues every weekend and the police are using a new zoning system, allowing a pair of officers to have responsibility for certain areas.

Multi-agency nights of action continue each payday weekend using MAVISbus as a hub and have included in the past year use of a drugs itemiser, drugs dog, checks on door security and trading standards dip-testing.

Anti-social, behaviour is being tackled by the new public space protection orders (PSPOs), to deter individuals or groups across North Somerset committing anti-social behaviour in public places.

Howard said: “The PSPOs will allow us to deal with anti-social behaviour both day and night more effectively and will benefit residents, businesses and their customers by making North Somerset a desirable place to live, visit and work.”

An initiative to improve sexual behaviour has also been implemented, with the police working in partnership with Pub Watch, Weston Area Health NHS Trust, Weston College, local schools and taxi companies to implement a range of initiatives.

These include raising awareness about what constitutes sexual assault and an ‘Ask for Angela’ code-word campaign, so bars, clubs and taxis can help someone get out of a difficult situation if needed.

Age-appropriate training and education is also being held at local schools and Weston College, as well as bystander awareness training.

As well as this, a campaign to ensure zero-tolerance for hate crime in the town after dark is also being launched, with awareness raising around what constitutes a hate crime and what to do if you are a victim or see an incident take place.

This is a joint project being led by North Somerset Council, Avon and Somerset Police and local hate crime charity Stand Against Racism and Inequality (SARI). It will include targeted communications and awareness for people working in and using the night-time economy.

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