Aldershot is preparing a bid for Purple Flag status for a second time, after previously failing to achieve the nightlife safety hallmark
Aldershot's bid for a nightlife safety hallmark will not be hampered by continued problems with alcohol-related anti-social behaviour in the town centre, Rushmoor Borough Council’s chief executive has insisted.
A second bid for Purple Flag status, is being readied after a previous bid was unsuccessful.
The national award is bestowed by the Association of Town Centre Management in recognition of good town centre management practice and is intended to act as a hallmark of a place to have a good, and importantly safe, night out.
However Reverend George Newton, project manager of the Aldershot Town Centre Pastoral Team, known as the Street Angels, a Christian group of volunteers that patrol popular nightlife spots in Aldershot on Friday and Saturday nights, said volunteers had often had to intervene to prevent problems. He said they even regularly witnessed cases where they suspected women had been spiked by rohypnol.
“We quite often discover people who may have been targeted,” he said. “Maybe once a month we see the symptoms ourselves but we hear from people that it happens fairly regularly.
“We have to notice them to ensure they get home and have called ambulances a number of times.”
The Street Angels, though, could play a key part in Aldershot’s bid for Purple Flag status.
Their calming influence, distribution of free spikeys - protective caps that prevent drinks from being spiked - and offers to pray for those leaving bars who could potentially get into trouble all had a positive effect on town centre behaviour. Mr Newton said he felt anti-social behaviour incidents and violence had significantly decreased since the Street Angels were formed 10 years ago.
Rushmoor chief executive Andrew Lloyd said he was ‘full of admiration’ for the group and insisted that the problems in the town centre were ‘not unique to Aldershot’ and that they were unlikely to be major obstacles in the Purple Flag bid.
“Our priority as a council and the police, who take this very seriously, is to manage the night time economy and address these issues,” he said.
Police Sergeant Debbie Barnes from the Aldershot Safer Neighbourhoods team said the team dealt ‘robustly’ with alcohol-related anti-social behaviour.
“Early intervention patrols take place to disperse those who are likely to cause issues later in the evening which has a very positive impact,” she said. Another organisation that is aiming to reduce anti-social behaviour at night time is Safer North Hampshire – an organisation that pools resources to respond to community needs in Rushmoor, Hart and other parts of north east Hampshire.
One of its key strategic priorities is to cut violent crime, criminal damage and antisocial behaviour between 10pm and 3am, and reducing drug and alcohol-related offending at night.
Community safety manager Caroline Ryan said it was accepted that there was also an ‘issue’ with street drinking in the Wellington Centre, and a meeting is due to be held next week. Officers have been working with The Vine Day Centre in Aldershot to get those guilty of this involved in rehabilitation programmes.