E&E | Crackdown on street camps dropped from Exeter’s controversial PSPO

E&E

03 January 2017

Crackdown on street camps dropped from Exeter’s controversial Public Spaces Protection Order

by Gordon Richardson  

PSPO tents
There was little support for proposals to restrict street encampments in Exeter

Controversial plans to crack down on rough sleeping and begging in Exeter have been scaled back following feedback from around 1,250 residents and businesses.

The proposed Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) is intended to curb anti-social behaviour in Exeter city centre and the St Thomas area.

It would give police and council officers additional powers to tackle aggressive begging, street drinking and urinating in the street, including by handing out on-the-spot fines.

But measures to allow tents to be seized from homeless people deemed to be causing a nuisance have been dropped due to a lack of public support.

  • the taking of intoxicants (alcohol, new psychoactive substances commonly known as ‘legal highs’ and other stimulants);
  • individuals or groups causing anti-social behaviour;
  • urinating in the street; and
  • aggressive begging.

In addition, it is proposed that a restorative option, coupled with a zero penalty fee, will be provided within the majority of fixed penalty notices, and that these notices will be served retrospectively – not on-the-spot – in the vast majority of cases.

The area covered by the PSPO has not changed.

Mark Thomas, centre, joined protesters in Exeter

The original proposals included a restriction on so-called street encampments which sparked protests from campaigners supported by the comedian Mark Thomas.

The council faced criticism after it was revealed that 57 tents were seized between the summer of 2014 and December 2015.

Only 17 per cent of responses to the consultation were in favour of the proposed restrictions on street encampments in the PSPO.

The area covered by the proposed PSPOAn updated document published on the city council’s website states: “Whilst the original restrictions were deliberately crafted to distinguish between those that are sleeping rough (which in itself is not anti-social) and instead attempted to focus on the anti-social manifestations of encampments when they interfere with the lawful use of a public space by other members of the public or property owners (e.g. obstructing access to a building or deterring use of part of a park), it is apparent that many respondents felt that this was specifically aimed at members of the street community as a means of removing them from the streets, rather than dealing with the anti-social behaviour that can manifest when other lawful users seek to use that space.

“It is important that there is general public support for the introduction and implementation of any PSPO. Therefore, the prohibitions and restrictions regarding street encampments that were originally included in the proposed order for consultation have now been removed from the set of controls contained in the revised proposals.”

Proposed controls on begging have also been scaled back due to insufficient public support.

The revised order makes a distinction between so-called passive and aggressive begging.

Passive begging – for example, “where someone is sat at a shop entrance collecting money from a hat” – will not be banned. Instead, the order aims to restrict aggressive begging, which is deemed intimidating or likely to cause fear, alarm or distress to members of the public.

Examples given include “someone who purposefully places themselves beside a pay-point or cash-point, where members of the public have to take out their money or bank cards in order to use the facility, or someone who proactively walks up to a person to demand money in an intimidating manner”.

Exeter’s full council will decide on Tuesday, February 21, whether to adopt the revised PSPO, which would last for three years. If it is implemented there would not be any extra policing to enforce the order.

Further reading:
Read more on E&E website 

Read more on E&E Facebook page

My Storify feed on the issue: 03/01/17 | Revisions to #ExeterPSPO

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