Colchester’s night time economy was today awarded Purple Flag status by the Association of Town and City Management (ATCM)

Commenting on the award Alex Smith, Purple Flag Coordinator at the ATCM, said: ‘The assessors and award panel were particularly impressed with the Police partnership with the Royal Military Police. The joint civilian/military patrolling provided a reassuring presence in the town centre and it was noticeable that the RMP personnel interacted well with the civilian revellers.

“In terms of place, Colchester is a town with a wealth of history, plenty of buildings of note, alleyways with character and the added uniqueness of being a walled town. This makes the town a destination of interest and this should be built upon.

“Colchester’s greatest asset is clearly its cultural heritage which should be celebrated. Future improvements and developments in the night-time economy should seek to reinforce this and so should the place marketing.” He added.

Responding to the news Cllr Tim Young, Colchester Borough Council Portfolio Holder for Community Safety and Culture said: “I am delighted that the Association of Town and City Management has awarded Colchester Purple Flag status.”

He added, “The night-time economy is very important to Colchester and Purple Flag is an endorsement that our town centre is an attractive, vibrant, safe and clean place to visit. This award is a worthy recognition of the highly effective partnership work taking place daily between Essex Police, the SOS Bus, the Royal Military Police, Pubwatch, all the town centre leisure, cultural and transport organisations, the Street Pastor team, the NHS as well as Colchester Borough Council’s CCTV, street cleaning and Licensing services.”

Cllr Paul Smith, Business and Resource Portfolio Holder for Colchester Borough Council said, “The night time economy is an important contributor to businesses offering leisure facilities in the town and surrounding area and supporting 3000 local jobs. We are very pleased with the support from across political parties, local businesses and organisations and the drive for improvement. This is yet another example of businesses and the Council working together to make Colchester even better.”

The news came through as Nick Alston, the new Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex, was about to hold his first community engagement event in Colchester Town Hall. Commenting on the award Mr Alston said:

“The award of Purple Flag status to Colchester is recognition of the excellent partnership work that makes the town centre a safe and attractive place to enjoy some leisure time. Colchester’s night life attracts a unique mix of visitors, and all the agencies and voluntary organisations work together with genuine commitment and care. I’ve had the privilege of seeing the work of the SOS bus first hand, and it’s an outstanding part of a great team effort. Thank you to everyone for all the hard work that led to this prestigious award.”

The award, which has taken two years in preparation, recognises great hospitality and entertainment areas at night. Places which achieve this gold standard offer a positive experience to night-time visitors and users. It is similar in status to Blue Flag for beaches and Green Flag for parks.

It is an objective assessment which aims to provide recognition to town centres which are managing the night-time experience and may help to overcome negative public perceptions which may exist.

Independent research carried out in 2012 stated that Colchester’s night time economy was worth £39m, comprised 207 businesses and supports 2979 full time equivalent jobs.

Purple Flag is supported by leading organisations such as: Diageo, the SIA (Security Industry Authority), Smart City Dressing, BIIAB (a qualifications body) the Association of Chief Police Officers, Keep Britain Tidy and the Association of Town and City Management.

So, what exactly was the Purple Flag assessment based on?
The assessment process covers five themes and accredited towns and cities
need to pass in all five, which are:

Wellbeing – how welcoming, clean and safe is Colchester after dark?

Movement – is there a secure pattern of arrival, circulation and departure?

A broad appeal – is there a vibrant choice and rich mix of entertainment and activity on offer?

Place – is it a stimulating destination and a vital place?

The policy envelope – are the right policies in place to ensure effective management and use of the town centre at night and in the evening?

Personally, I think this wonderful news for the town. I was invited to meet the assessors on the afternoon of the Purple Flag visit and had the opportunity to talk about Colchester’s night time economy.  The most important aspect for me is that it was the first time the team had visited Colchester and the Purple Flag award has been based on what they saw and not on how the town is often portrayed by sensational headlines in the local press and poorly produced television programmes.

I hope the Purple Flag is a spring board to changing some people’s perceptions of Colchester’s night time economy. Try it, you might like it.