Northampton’s safe place vulnerability centre could reopen when night-time economy resumes

The university has been approached by a 'town partner' about gaining key access to reopen the centre

Thursday, 18th March 2021, 5:33 pm
Updated Thursday, 18th March 2021, 5:38 pm

A vulnerability centre which provided a safe place for vulnerable people to go after a night out could reopen later this year when the night time economy resumes.

The centre was opened in July 2018 after a campaign by the Chronicle & Echo and existed to help those who had been on a night out in the town centre to feel safe when they leave pubs and clubs.

Based at Platform in George Row - a club owned by University of Northampton - the centre was used by police and street pastors who safeguarded those who needed support, however a Northamptonshire Police spokeswoman confirmed it only remained in use until 'late 2018' as 'officers did not need to use it very often.'

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Representatives from Northamptonshire Police, The University of Northampton and Northampton Borough Council at the opening of the vulnerability centre in George Row on July 13, 2018.
Representatives from Northamptonshire Police, The University of Northampton and Northampton Borough Council at the opening of the vulnerability centre in George Row on July 13, 2018.

Three years later, following the murder of Sarah Everard, who was walking home from her friend’s house when she disappeared, a movement surrounding safer streets has erupted.

The vulnerability centre was a measure in place to help make the streets of Northampton feel safer, so clarity is needed as to whether the facility will reopen.

According to the university, the Town Centre Task Force Group is interested in reopening the room, which was used for the vulnerability centre, once the night time economy is up and running again.

A spokesman for the university said: "The Students’ Union has stated that by the time night life is officially reopened by the government, they would like to see the WASH (Welfare and Safeguarding Hub) also open again.

"We have been approached by town partners to provide a key access to the room previously used for the WASH.

"This has been agreed by the Students’ Union and plans are in place to have this installed."

Although there is interest around reopening the centre, the WASH partnership between the university and the police force is not likely to resume.

The police spokeswoman said: “Looking at appropriate spaces to use as safe havens is part of the force’s work with partners around the night-time economy, but any location has to be chosen carefully to ensure it is suitable and affords the necessary privacy for caring for vulnerable people.

“We would welcome approaches from town-centre businesses or organisations that may have space that would be suitable for use in this way.

“We do not currently plan to recommence police officer use of the space previously allocated at Platform.”

Other plans are in place to protect residents on a night out including the use of plain clothes officers, which the force says they have been using for ‘several years’.

These officers are tasked to look out for anyone who may have become more vulnerable and, for example, make sure they get home safely or find their friends again.

Superintendent Adam Ward, lead for the night time economy response for Northamptonshire Police, added: “As Covid-19 restrictions are lifted and our county’s pubs and clubs are allowed to reopen, we’re aware that a lot of people will be keen to get back out there, and there will also be some young people who have never experienced a night out before going out for the first time who may be at increased risk of becoming vulnerable.

“Everyone has the right to enjoy a night out safely, and Northamptonshire Police will be continuing the work it does in policing the night-time economy to prevent crime and working with our partners to protect people from harm.

“For several years, the force has very successfully used plain clothes officers in pubs, clubs and public areas at busy times of the year, such as the festive season.

“These officers are on the lookout for people whose behaviour suggests they may be potential offenders, for example if they appear to be paying particular attention to vulnerable people, especially women.

“They are also looking out for vulnerable people, helping them get home safely, get them a taxi, or help them find their friends again.

“Using plain clothes officers in this way as restrictions lift and the night-time economy reopens will be a very high priority to help keep everyone safe.

“We will also have dedicated uniformed police patrols in key town-centre areas, and continue to encourage anyone who has any concerns or who needs help on a night out to approach our officers, or any of the other organisations working to keep people safe during a night out.”

Similarly the university has a number of other measures in place to help keep students safe during nights out.

Becky Bradshaw, director of campus and estates services at the University of Northampton, said: “The safety of our students and staff is one of our highest priorities at the University.

"Our on-campus police and security teams have been consistently on site at Waterside when the new campus first opened in late 2018 to help those studying and working at the University.

“Although the university’s remit and responsibility is focused on our community of students and staff, our close partnership with town partners has meant enhanced safety measures that have directly benefitted members of the public.

"For instance our designated ‘safe route’ into town not only has enhanced CCTV and lighting, but our security team also regularly patrols here, helping those who need them.”

Another issue raised by Chronicle & Echo readers regarding street safety is street lighting. Read more about that here.

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