Objective: Outlining the steps the council are undertaking, in partnership with others, to improve residents’ experience of race week.
Louis Krog (Head of Public Protection)
Andre Klein (Cheltenham Racecourse)
Louis Krog (Head of Public Protection) (LK) and Andre Klein (Cheltenham Racecourse) (AK) outlined the key points from their briefing note, which outlined the direction of travel ahead of the festival in March.
AK explained that they anticipated more than 250,000 racegoers over the four days of the festival, with the largest day being Gold Cup day on the Friday. The racecourse had made some changes to capacities across all four days, limiting numbers to 68,500 (a reduction of more than 5,000 on Gold Cup day) to alleviate some of the pressures experienced last year and improve the experience for customers and residents. Gold Cup day was already sold out, and they were looking forward to providing a good experience for racegoers.
He added that he had been leading on the work to make changes in order to mitigate the issues seen last year, in particular minor social misdemeanours like those seen on Richmond Road. Last year’s festival had received about 200 complaints in total, though this included things like beer prices and cold chips. They had trialled the Love Our Turf campaign in November, seeking to promote positive behaviour, improve racegoers’ journeys and above all reduce negative experiences for residents. They were developing a better rapport between the racecourse and residents, and the campaign sought to demonstrate an enhanced level of care and respect by providing more street cleaning, bins and toilets, and by placing stewards and wayfinders on the street to facilitate safe and orderly travel.
He added that they were keen to ensure this wasn’t just a racecourse initiative, and were working closely with CBC officers, the Business Improvement District (BID) and Chamber of Commerce to ensure a joined up approach to the strategy. The November trial had received no negative feedback, and the principal difference now would be the larger footprint of the festival, covering additional areas. A significant marketing and advertising campaign would support its operational delivery.
LK added that the council’s focus was primarily on the enforcement side of things, and they were looking to learn lessons from last year. The Police and Crime Commissioner had arranged a debrief with ward councillors after the 2022 festival, while internal debriefs and reflections had taken place too. The presence of envirocrime officers would be upscaled, particularly at key sites and peak times, as well as police officers and PCSOs with additional powers to act as a deterrent. They would focus on active reporting of offences, and would close a key road southbound on all four evenings to get people away from the racecourse more quickly.
He noted that the council’s approach was not just aimed at preventing anti-social behaviour (ASB), but also at supporting wider public safety in areas like taxis and sexual entertainment venues (SEVs). In effect, officers would be on duty from 8am on Tuesday until 2am on Saturday. It was an incredibly resource-intensive program, putting a strain on capacity, but they recognised the need to build on the successful approach trialled in November. The ‘war on wee’ campaign, led by Cllr. Wilkinson, would also form part of this, and was looking into using things like hydrophobic paint to discourage public urination.
The Chair moved into Member questions and debate:
- One Member asked what it was that made the festival uniquely difficult to manage. AK responded that it was sheer numbers more than anything else, in addition to the four day duration. Racegoers often came from a long way away, for example from Ireland, and tended to stay for the full four days. No other event saw quite so many people moving in and out of town at this rate. Putting wayfinders and stewards along Evesham Road would make a real difference for racegoers and local residents.
- One Member asked whether the officers had had a definite commitment about increased policing to match the council’s efforts. LK responded that while they had not had a particular number yet, they might have more information to report back at the February meeting, and would take the query to the Chief Inspector in the meantime. He was confident that the police recognised the scale of the event and the need to take a more robust approach to challenging people. The local policing team had already committed to support CBC’s envirocrime officers and were supportive of the work they were doing for racegoers and residents. AK agreed that the police were integral to every element of the plan.
- One Member asked how success would be measured, and how this would affect the level of resource allocated next year. LK suggested that complaints were generally a good barometer, as well as where exactly they came from. The November trial had seen a significant reduction, and hopefully this would continue.
- One Member whose ward included the railway station suggested funnelling racegoers down the Honeybourne Line towards the town centre rather than along Gloucester Road. Another Member noted that this backed onto residential properties as well, so it would just move the disturbance to a different neighbourhood.
- One Member was disappointed that the British Transport Place were not implementing dry trains (for example before 10am) like they did for football fans. There was no obvious downside to this, and it would prevent people getting drunk far too early in the day. Another Member added that large numbers of racegoers also arrived on coaches.
- One Member noted the issue of unlicensed taxis, and the work being done by local authorities in London like the ‘know what you’re getting into’ campaign. They hoped that there would be a joined up approach with ongoing work on the night-time economy.
- One Member noted the issues of ticket touts and illegal drugs. Cocaine seemed to be the drug of choice, bringing with it behavioural changes. AK emphasised that they were sending a clear message that lawbreaking and disorder wouldn’t be tolerated. They couldn’t stop everybody, but could significantly mitigate harm and disturbance.
- One Member highlighted the work of Ubico in keeping the town clean during race week.
- One Member highlighted CCTV and street lighting as key to public safety, and advocated having more safe crossing places on busy highways like Evesham Road. This was a county council issue but one GCC would likely support as it would have an obvious positive impact.
- One Member noted that a lot of the staff working at or around the racecourse would be young people on temporary contracts, and hoped there were strong safeguarding processes in place. LK agreed that a many festival workers, as well as those working in hospitality in the town centre, were reliant on temporary and less experienced staff, and their safety was key. The council was there to support businesses wherever it could, for example through the BID and though doorstep briefings and checks.
The Chair noted that planning for an event as large as the festival was a year round exercise of which they only saw a snapshot, and thanked the officers for their work.