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Published by the Society in the Ripon Gazette, 1st January 2008
A new national scheme has been launched to improve the attractiveness of towns and cities after dark. David Winpenny, Co-Chairman of Ripon Civic Society, considers how Ripon might benefit.

When you think about Ripon after dark, what is your image? Is it a place that you hurry through, back to your home or to your car or bus? Is it a destination – a place where you go to the pub or the nightclub? Are you worried about what is happening? Is it a place you would avoid at all costs?

Riponians have a reminder of what the city was like in past. Every evening at 9.00 pm the Hornblower sets the watch – and all good citizens should be indoors and, the implication is, asleep. In the dark winter nights before public lighting – first gas and now electric – our nights were governed by the amount of daylight. Now, we are moving to a 24-hour culture – not, perhaps, in Ripon, but certainly in our larger cities.

So what about Ripon city centre at night? Is it an attractive place, where you would like to come for an evening, or somewhere you will try to avoid? The Civic Trust, the national body to which Ripon Civic Society is affiliated, has just launched a campaign, ‘Night Vision’ to make city centres at night ‘welcoming spaces that work for everyone’. There are some obvious things it wants to see reduced, including crime, noise and disturbance. More positively, it wants to encourage shops to open into the evening, and have more places catering for families and for older customers. It also would like to see more activities at night that don’t rely in alcohol. The Civic Trust calls for better night-time public transport, better lighting and an increase in street wardens to ensure that there is always a responsible, adult presence in city and town centres after dark. It also suggests that public buildings should be used in the evenings as well as in the daytime.

Of course, not everything they call for would necessarily apply to Ripon – but the general idea – to make the city centre a place where people want to go and where they can feel safe after dark, is certainly something that most of us would welcome. One of the Trust’s suggestions is that there be more special events and festivals – something that has already begun here; think of the very successful All Hallows’ Eve event on the Square, run by Ripon Independent Traders. Other things that would help include having more people actually living in the centre – over the shops is an obvious place – and making sure that young people have their own place where they can go to enjoy themselves without disturbing others.

Unlike many towns across the country, Ripon is not yet a completely no-go area at night, and we have seen a welcome increase in the number of restaurants open in the evenings. Yes, there have been some problems, but there is nothing that cannot be tackled with a common will and some positive thinking. Along with its ‘Night Vision’ campaign The Civic Trust has launched a ‘Purple Flag’, that from 2009 will be awarded to towns and cities that meet its criteria as hospitable, attractive and safe places at night. Ripon should be working towards being one of the first places in the country to fly a purple flag.

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