University of Westminster research on the UK’s expansion of the evening and night-time economy – and its implications for town and city centres – has greatly contributed to improving the management of these environments, here and abroad.

Buses and people in London


In 2000, the University was approached by local residents in Westminster who were troubled by the impacts of late night disorder in London’s West End.

The research underpinning the claimed impacts in this case study were carried out between 2001 and 2006 in four distinct projects. Each built on the other, and Professor Roberts was the principal investigator for all.

The University’s research demonstrated that more people would go to town centres at night if centres were more accessible, had less anti-social behaviour and offered more choice with regard to places to eat and drink. These findings were reinterpreted and repackaged as assessment criteria and evaluation methodology for the Purple Flag accreditation scheme that started in 2009. A study commissioned by Purple Flag found many economic benefits from this accreditation experienced by both businesses and individuals. These include a 13 per cent increase in footfall and a wider patronage from different social groups.

Roberts’ work has contributed to legislative change. Some recommendations from a House of Commons Select Committee, on which she acted as a specialist adviser, have since been incorporated into statute, for example a late night levy on operators in centres with high levels of crime and disorder.

Together with other experts, Professor Roberts contributed expertise to the campaign by ‘Object’ to redress an unintended consequence of the Licensing Act 2003. This included an appearance on a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary. The campaign was successful, and the Policing and Crime Act 2009 gives local authorities powers to control lap dancing on licensed premises.

Roberts’ research has had an international impact on practitioners and professional services. The Alcohol Advisory Council for New Zealand called attention to the local authority survey in their comments on rebuilding Christchurch after the earthquake. Vienna City Council is disseminating the innovative methods used in one of the studies.


The University of Westminster, under Professor Roberts' leadership, provided a strong foundation of research and analysis for the development of Civic Trust thinking on the night-time economy, as part of a Government-funded research programme 2003-6. This has led to the development of the Purple Flag accreditation scheme, now managed by ATCM.

Paul Davies, Association of Town Centre Management

Supported by: Leverhulme Foundation, Institute of Alcohol Studies, The Civic Trust, ODPM