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Bars and restaurants can save the high street, say councillors

The vast majority of local authorities believe the night-time economy will play an important role in preventing the decline of the high street, according to a new study.

The study by the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) and Portman Group reveals 92% of councils say bars and restaurants have an important role to play in preventing further decline.

It also found three quarters (74%) of councils said they saw developing their night time economy as a key priority or important, yet only one in five (22%) have a dedicated night-time economy strategy.

More than three quarters (77%) said investing in the night-time economy will become more important as councils become more reliant on income from business rates.

And three-quarters of councils said they would welcome a system to help them share best practice across the country.

While antisocial behaviour and crime is a major issue in the night-time economy, nine out of 10 councils (88%) treat their area’s night time economy as a way of supporting local businesses and job creation.

Partnership working is essential in supporting a vibrant night-time economy, say eight in 10 councils (79%), with local businesses (95%) and the police (93%) named as key partners by almost all councils.

A fifth (22%) of councils reported that their area already has a wide range of evening and night time activities on offer, including many which don’t revolve around alcohol.

And a quarter (25%) said their area’s nightlife attracts visitors from elsewhere, but that most activities involve alcohol.

And around half (45%) said that their night time economy offer draws mainly local people.

Meanwhile, in a few areas (8%) councils report that there is little on offer except down market pubs and that the town centre is seen as antisocial and intimidating.

‘With customers spending more time and money online, a varied night-time economy could be a life-belt to the beleaguered high street,’ said LGiU chief executive, Jonathan Carr-West.

‘Encouraging activities and venues that appeal to a wide range of people is rightly important to local councillors. A national strategy would help councils get the best out of the night-time economy, to the benefit of everyone in the community.’

The chief executive of the Portman Group, John Timothy, added:‘Partnership working between the police, businesses, local authorities and other stakeholders is already happening in communities up and down the country to make the night time economy safer and more inclusive.

‘This is crucial at a time when we know our high streets are changing, with online retailers challenging traditional operators and more shops standing empty. We need to further develop these models of partnership working to deliver vibrant nighttime environments that can help revive and retain our much-loved high streets and town centres as well as boosting the local economy.’

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