Proposals to help save the high street by making the most of London’s underused spaces with exhibitions, live performances and temporary bars have been applauded by leading industry figures.
The recommendations were made by the London Night Time Commission in its latest report which outlined opportunities to make the most of shops and buildings which are often empty at night.
Boroughs could look to employ unused spaces for pop up and late-night activity, as well as encourage later hours for traditional retail access, the ‘Think Night: London’s Neighbourhoods from 6pm to 6am, report suggested.
“Boroughs could consider relaxing their approach to planning and licensing to allow uses to ‘nest’ inside one another,” it stated. “For example, there could be pop up bars and restaurants in cultural spaces or music performances in retail spaces. The Tate Modern and Science Museum, amongst others, have begun to open late on specific evenings. This includes nesting other uses within them, for example workshops, music performances and temporary bars. By providing a variety of additional activities, as well as access to the galleries, people of all ages and interests are catered to.”
The report also insisted that London needs an active 24-hour licensing regime if it is to “truly operate at a global level as a city of the future.”
It recommended looking to Amsterdam and Berlin where some premises - like the Berghain night club - are given rolling 24-hour licences and are recognised as national cultural destinations for locals and tourists alike.
“Overall I am enormously encouraged by the idea that the late night industry is something that needs to be pulled into a centralised thought process and seen for what it is-a contribution and benefit to society and a local economy rather than a cost,” said Deltic Group chief executive Peter Marks.
“For decades retail has been part of a town plan whilst there has been no leisure plan-a ridiculous state of affairs.
“The advantages will be that they will bring a broader range of target customers into the centres and be seen as for everyone rather than just the few, it will make for better communities that socialise with each other and it will occupy buildings that otherwise will not be used as retail goes more online.”
Marks added that the rest of the country needed to “take note” and “learn that it need not be just for London, or even the cities.”
Tom Kidd, MD of Adventure Bar described the proposals as “sensible, considered and a good starter for 10,” while Alan D Miller, Night Time Industries Association chairman added: “We are not in the 1950s any more. Licensing allows for flexibility. I really hope councillors and police will see the merit in this. All types of activity should be encouraged but without licensed premises it will be a non-starter.”
Kate Nicholls, chair of the London Night Time Commission, described London by night as dynamic and diverse.
“Like the Mayor, we believe the capital can be so much more at night – with more chances to shop, to rest, to explore, to innovate and to grow,” she said. “We can extend the opening hours of our traditional cultural offerings to reach more Londoners and we can bring underused spaces to life at night and help tackle the decline of our high streets. To do this we must improve planning for the night and that’s why we want to see every borough, with the support of the Mayor, set out a positive vision for their night-time economy, to drive forward improvements at all hours and retain the special character of each area.”
Peter Marks, chief executive of the UK’s largest nightclub operator, Deltic, has told MCA he welcomes plans to boost London’s nightime economy, and urged other authorities to take note. He was responding to the latest recommendations from London Night Time Commission, which suggested boroughs look to employ unused spaces for pop up and late-night activity, as well as encourage later hours for traditional retail access. Marks said: “For decades retail has been part of a town plan whilst there has been no leisure plan-a ridiculous state of affairs. The advantages will be that they will bring a broader range of target customers into the centres and be seen as for everyone rather than just the few, it will make for better communities that socialise with each other and it will occupy buildings that otherwise will not be used as retail goes more online.” Other late-night operators and industry commentators also welcomed the move.