DRINKERS and smokers could be targeted in a bid to change Colchester after dark.

More than 40 recommendations have been made by a task group to breathe life into the town from 6pm to 9pm and stop it becoming a no-go area after 9pm.

Ideas include an early warning scheme where police will warn pubs not to serve customers they have identified as having drunk too much already.

Another plan is to ban outdoor smoking areas from the streets and improve taxi marshalling in Head Street and Queen Street.

The group also wants to change the culture at night by offering open-air events and activities and themed evening markets to get a mix of people enjoying the town in the evening.

A report is to be presented to Colchester Council’s policy review and development panel on Wednesday, September 1.

Nick Barlow, chairman of the task group, said: “We get lots of people complaining about the town centre at night, so we were looking at what can be done to improve the experience.

“People think there are simple solutions, but it is quite a complex issue.”

The group has worked on the project for about a year. However, the funding needed for some of the recommendations to be implemented has been cut.

The SOS Bus and street pastors were given as two examples of successful initiatives and it is thought the opening of Firstsite will offer additional options for residents and visitors.

A questionnaire has been developed to get reactions to the recommendations from townsfolk.

Mr Barlow said: “It is all part of a process, but it won’t be a different place overnight.

“We want a better variety of events in the evenings. Between 6pm and 9pm, the town almost closes, then it opens up with the pubs and clubs.

“I think quite a lot of the recommendations can be adopted but since we started, there has been the loss of the funding.”

His biggest desire is to see a cultural change with people taking part in all kinds of activities.

Mr Barlow added: “If we get a greater mix of people out for different reasons, it changes behaviour and makes people out drinking more conscious of their behaviour.”