Chester Races bring £54.1m per year to the local economy and nearly 1,000 jobs but also extra traffic, a dip in people using the city centre plus a slight rise in violent attacks.
Cheshire West and Chester Council commissioned consultants Amion to look at both the positive and negative impacts on Chester city centre following discussions with traders.
The report will be used to help the council, racecourse and businesses work together to ‘more pro-actively manage’ the impact on Chester of race days and other events held at the Roodee.
Positive aspects highlighted by the report are:
■ Chester Race Company contributes £54.1 million per year to the local economy and supports 974 full time equivalent jobs
■ Chester Races attract worldwide media coverage for the city – the May Festival races were seen or heard by an audience of about 8.5m
■ The races attract between 7,000 and 25,500 visitors per fixture with nearly half coming from within a 20 mile radius.
But the report also acknowledges these large increases in visitor numbers can present challenges for the city centre. Some of the reported negative impacts on the city include a suggested drop in retail sales on Saturday race days, traffic congestion in the city and antisocial behaviour from race goers.
The city experiences increased litter before and after races, more begging on the streets on race days, increased noise levels from bars on race days and increased waiting time for taxis on race days.
The independent retailers who were consulted expressed the most significant levels of concern. One retailer offered data to the report indicating reduced trading between 20 per cent and 30 per cent between 11am and 2pm on race Saturdays compared to other weekends.
The Amion assessment considered parking levels during race days that showed there was no significant change to usage of the market car park over a four month period. The analysis did report a peak usage between 2pm and 5pm suggesting non race goers visiting the city.
Among the negatives highlighted by the report were:
■ Footfall analysis showed a small drop in people using the city centre on race days.
■ The number of assaults recorded in Chester on race days was 36, compared to 33 on comparable non-race days, an increase of around 10 per cent.
■ 13 of the 36 race day assaults were linked to alcohol compared to nine alcohol-related assaults on non-race days.
■ Community safety wardens reported one incident of drug use over 15 race days in 2016.
■ In the same period there were 53 incidents of alcohol seizure and reports of high noise levels from selected licensed premises.
Amion states: “The report clearly demonstrates that the racecourse delivers a significant economic impact in Chester both for spend in the city on race days and for other events at the racecourse throughout the year.
“This is significant in the restaurant/hotel and bar industry. However it is evident that there is also a negative impact of the race days. Particularly in relation to footfall and spend in retailers on Watergate street but anecdotally this can be seen across the whole city when racing takes place on Saturdays.”
The report highlights the need for more data to be collected to gain a true position. As a result the council is establishing a joint working group including the racecourse, CH1 BID and Cheshire police . The first meeting will be arranged next month.
This group will work together to better understand the effects the races may have on shops, restaurants and bars. It will also suggest ways to tackle antisocial behaviour and ensuring training is improved for staff serving alcohol particularly on race days.
Councillor Louise Gittins , cabinet member communities and wellbeing, said: “This report helps us to understand the true economic impact of Chester Racecourse for residents, businesses and the many visitors to the city.
“The racecourse, which contributes to our local and the national economy, provides a number of actions to help with negative impacts including funding traffic management services on race days, providing portaloos and additional litter bins. Race day assistants are employed and cleaners on Nuns Road before and after races.
“Complete data relating to the negative impacts is not currently available or in existence and so the new joint group will be investigating how to gather this as recommended in the report.”