Guildhall Walk’s new look is down to hunger for change, says owner

Starbucks opening in Guildhall Walk, Portsmouth. From left, Mark Hepburn, David Relf, Gillian Skan, Lauren Sykes, Alan Knight, Taylor Ahearn, Ruth Moss, Fay Draper and Anil Patil. Below, police in Guildhall Walk
Starbucks opening in Guildhall Walk, Portsmouth. From left, Mark Hepburn, David Relf, Gillian Skan, Lauren Sykes, Alan Knight, Taylor Ahearn, Ruth Moss, Fay Draper and Anil Patil. Below, police in Guildhall Walk

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GUILDHALL Walk once had one of the highest violent crime rates of all English streets.

But the recent opening of a Starbucks coffee shop, along with new nightclubs, pubs and a Sainsbury’s store might be proof that the tide is turning.

073046_0084_DRINK_SAFE (VT) 28/7/07''Police officers arrest a struggling man who is handcuffed and held awaiting transport to the bridewell at the police station.''Drink Safe - launch of a new year-long campaign to crackdown on drink-fuelled violence in Portsmouth and Southsea. A high-visibilty police presence in Guildhall Walk, Portsmouth, and the many bars in the area, has succeeded in reducing the number of incidents and increased safety for the revellers.''PICTURE: MICHAEL SCADDAN (073046-0084) ENGPPP00120121128114505

073046_0084_DRINK_SAFE (VT) 28/7/07''Police officers arrest a struggling man who is handcuffed and held awaiting transport to the bridewell at the police station.''Drink Safe - launch of a new year-long campaign to crackdown on drink-fuelled violence in Portsmouth and Southsea. A high-visibilty police presence in Guildhall Walk, Portsmouth, and the many bars in the area, has succeeded in reducing the number of incidents and increased safety for the revellers.''PICTURE: MICHAEL SCADDAN (073046-0084) ENGPPP00120121128114505

Luke Betts, one of the owners of The Astoria nightclub in Guildhall Walk, said the changes to the venues and crime rate were testament to the work of establishments and police.

He said: ‘Statistics show that Guildhall Walk is not the place it used to be.

‘Sainsbury’s went into one of the bars that had some trouble.

‘I would say it got better when they moved in.

‘Now Starbucks has moved into another venue that had issues.

‘It has got better and now it is not all about cheap drinks.

‘The Astoria is giving people good music and a good atmosphere.

‘The new technology that nearly all the bars and clubs to scan people’s ID has helped. There is no room for error. If someone is causing trouble, they won’t get into somewhere else. They can’t come back in.

‘It is good to see this initiative has been backed by venues and by the police. If you look at the south end of the street, you have got The Astoria, Library bar and the Brew House, which is a gastropub.

‘All of this is testament to the businesses and the police.

‘In another year or two, Guildhall Walk will be the clubbing street of the city again. The days of violence in Guildhall Walk are over and good riddance.’

Dave Relf is the manager of the new Starbucks shop. He said: ‘The nightclubs didn’t do it any favours.

‘We are hoping to help with the rejuvenation of Guildhall Walk.

‘I’m hoping it will be very busy.’

Changes put in place making street a ‘nicer place to visit’

VIOLENT offences in Guildhall Walk reported to police have fallen by half since 2011/12 because of work by authorities and drinking establishments to put an end to serious crime.

The Safer Portsmouth Partnership, made up of authorities including Hampshire Constabulary and Portsmouth City Council, worked with venues and the Portsmouth Business Crime Reduction Partnership to improve the area.

Figures in 2011/12 showed 38 violent crimes were reported, making it one of the worst streets in the country.

The introduction by venues of ID scanners, better-trained door staff and venues working together to highlight and ban troublemakers are some of the reasons why the area has seen its crime numbers drop.

Taxi marshals are now paid and venues have been providing some door staff with body-worn cameras to catch evidence of wrongdoing.

PC Matt Moss, who works in the violent crime reduction and licensing department inside the city council’s offices, has been praised for his role in cleaning up the area.

He said: ‘There is regular and strong communication, particularly between the police licensing team, venues and other partners.

‘This ensures that we are aware of issues and events that are ongoing and any emerging issues or venues are highlighted and dealt with before we get to any formal stage.

‘From a police point of view, we have been able to reduce the number of officers dedicated to Guildhall Walk at weekends.

‘This has allowed those officers to be available to the wider city area providing a service to more people rather than just the Guildhall area.

‘The reduction of officers required to patrol the area is proof that it is improving and gradually becoming a nicer place to visit.’