Students stay away from Eastgate Street bars 'over safety fears'
SAFETY fears in the city centre at night could be the main stumbling block to Gloucester developing into a thriving hub of activity.
Bar managers from the Nightsafe group say there has also been a worrying drop off in the number of students choosing to visit the city.
A disappointing fresher’s fortnight turnout, traditionally one of the busiest social periods of the year, has left many questioning what has changed in 12 months.
Hayley Johnson, manager of Fever in Eastgate Street, said: “I did not expect there to be such a big drop off in the number of students coming into the city during midweek.
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“Fever has been a lot quieter than last year, but we are not the only ones. Liquid has started a new student night on a Monday but they have also not done as well as they had hoped.
“It is hard to attract students into Gloucester, but I don’t think it is a safety issue.”
On-campus events, such as an appearance from BBC Radio 1 DJ Greg James, and special offers on taxis into Cheltenham are said to be the main cause of students turning their backs on Gloucester.
But the university insists city centre safety is not a concern for students.
Stewart Dove, director of student support at the University of Gloucestershire, said: “We work closely with our Students’ Union and police to ensure students stay safe and are offered advice to not take risks when they’re out and about after dark.
“The university is ranked within the Top 10 of the UK’s safest higher education institutions and our students generally enjoy a safe student experience whether they are based in either Gloucester or Cheltenham.”
An online Citizen survey into night-time safety revealed 62 per cent of people visiting Gloucester city centre at night felt unsafe.
Three quarters of those taking part were over 30, with 72 per cent visiting less than once a month.
Just 21 per cent visited the city’s bars, pubs and clubs each week.
One survey participant said: “There could be more family orientated eateries and a cafe lifestyle, not just pubs where the whole idea is to get drunk and be disrespectful to others.”
Another said: “I have a real problem with the gangs of drunken people hanging around late night bars and takeaways.
“Eastgate Street is the worst, it’s really quite scary when trying to walk by the groups. There doesn’t appear to be any control and lawlessness appears to rule.”
A 62-year-old man who did feel safe at night said: “I walk from my home in Kingsholm to the New Inn most Tuesday nights. I do not feel unsafe but there are often few people about, especially on the way home. It would feel safer for people if there were more people around but pubs and clubs keep closing as more people drink cheap alcohol from the supermarket at home.”
Jennie Dallimore, chairman of Nightsafe, said: “This is further evidence there is a desire and need to address safety concerns in the city and why it’s so important that the council and its partners do their best to address them.”
Chief Inspector Richard Burge said new safety schemes are being introduced. He said: “We have worked hard to make Gloucester safer with such initiatives as the Eastgate Street closure, improved lighting and investment in CCTV. We know the public like to see a visible police presence and we are providing that by putting dedicated officers on foot patrol.
“Our aim is to ensure there are consequences for those who come into the city at night and cause problems, which is why the yellow card scheme is being introduced.
“This will see trouble-makers banned from all licensed premises, and with the employment of the city cafe co-ordinator, which is being funded by the police and crime commissioner, the bans will be rigorously enforced.”