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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Revisions to Proposed Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) for Exeter City Centre and St. Thomas

Revisions to Proposed Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) for Exeter City Centre and St. Thomas

Following the Council’s 4 months of public consultation on a proposed Public Spaces Protection Order that ended on 29 February 2016, the 1250 or so responses have been considered and in light of these responses the proposals have been revised to only include:

  • 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 positive/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 (i.e. not on-the-spot) in the vast majority of cases.

The revised proposals will now be considered at Place Scrutiny Committee on 12 January 2017 and Executive Committee on 14 February before going before Full Council on 21 February 2017 for a decision on whether to adopt the proposed PSPO.

The documents on this webpage include:

  1. Map of the proposed PSPO area
  2. Revised PSPO Restrictions with an explanation for revisions
  3. Equality Impact Assessment
  4. Frequently Asked Questions
  5. Responses to Representations

Further reading:
Exeter City Council webpage on Revised proposals for PSPO [03 January 2017]

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

E&E | Taking tents from Exeter homeless and on-the-spot fines dropped from controversial PSPO plans

E&E

30 November 2016

Taking tents from Exeter homeless and on-the-spot fines dropped from controversial PSPO plans

by Alex Richards

Controversial plans for a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) covering Exeter city centre, revised after public outcry, are up for consultation.

The powers would help authorities in the city clamp down on anti social behaviour.

However, strong concern was voiced nationally that the proposed powers granted by the PSPO went too far, criminalising the homeless rather than helping them.

Reflecting public opinion, the council has returned with proposals which have either dropped or revised certain aspects of their proposals.

In particular, controls on street encampments have been completely removed from the plans.

Controls on begging have been limited to solely restrict aggressive begging, where people feel intimidated.

In addition, on-the-spot fixed fines for anti social behaviour have been replaced with notices issued after the offence.

An option would be available for “positive action”, including Acceptable Behaviour Contracts.

The revised proposals will be put to residents and businesses in a series of local public meetings in areas of the city the PSPO would directly cover.

The authority revealed it had received more than 1,200 responses following a four month consultation exercise into whether a PSPO should be introduced.

Cllr Rob Hannaford, Exeter City Council’s Lead Councillor for Place said: “Consultation is never a box ticking exercise – especially with something as important as a Public Space Protection Order.

A demo against the PSPO earlier this year

“However many residents and businesses in Exeter are suffering from the effects of chronic antisocial behaviour and we must be in a position to help them if there is an option to do so.

Adding: “I believe these revised plans get that balance right.”

In February this year, comedian Mark Thomas held a demonstration outside Exeter Civic Centre over the PSPO plans.

He labeled it a “bullies charter” and “mean-spirited rubbish.”

“These orders are all about keeping city centres nice and clean for a good shopping experience,” added Mr Thomas,

“But life has little blemishes and the council’s attitude is the mentality of a shopping mall security guard. It’s bullying, nasty and vicious.”

The proposals will go before the council in February next year.

Here’s when and where the public meetings have been scheduled:

Monday December 5 at 7pm, Riverside Church & Conference Centre, 13-14 Okehampton Street

Tuesday December 6 at 6pm, Guildhall (businesses only)

Wednesday December 7 at 7pm, Exeter Community Centre, 17 St. David’s Hill

Thursday December 8 at 7pm, St. Sidwell’s Primary School, York Road

Futher reading:
Read the article on the E&E website

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Revised plans on how to tackle antisocial behaviour in Exeter – and how to have your say

ECC Logo

Media Release | 28 November 2016

Revised plans on how to tackle antisocial behaviour in Exeter – and how to have your say

Following feedback on its consultation earlier this year, Exeter City Council has revised plans on how to tackle antisocial behaviour in parts of the City.
Earlier this year the Council consulted over four months into plans for a Public Spaces Protection Order – a new power available to councils to help prevent and reduce persistent antisocial behaviour from negatively affecting local communities.
Following responses from the public:
– Proposed controls on street encampments have been removed from plans to go before the Council in February next year.
– Controls on begging have been limited to tackle problematical aggressive begging only, where people feel intimidated.
– In addition on-the-spot fixed penalties notices for anti-social behaviour will not be the preferred option, instead notices would be issued retrospectively and contain an option for positive action such as Acceptable Behaviour Contracts, which have nationally seen success at changing behaviour for the better.
The revised proposals will now be put to residents and businesses in a series of local public meetings in areas the PSPO would directly cover.
Cllr Rob Hannaford, Exeter City Council’s Lead Councillor for Place said: “Consultation is never a box ticking exercise – especially with something as important as a Public Space Protection Order. We have listened to the public and will continue to do so – however many residents and businesses in Exeter are suffering from the effects of chronic antisocial behaviour and we must be in a position to help them if there is an option to do so. I believe these revised plans get that balance right.”
The controls include looking to tackle antisocial behaviour in public spaces where people are openly injecting/taking drugs, problematical street drinking, urinating in the street, and carrying out aggressive begging or other anti-social behaviour.
A series of open public meetings have been scheduled for the following dates & venues:
  • Monday 5th December at 7pm, Riverside Church & Conference Centre, 13-14 Oakhampton Street
  • Tuesday 6th December at 6PM, Guildhall (businesses only) •
  • Wednesday 7th December at 7pm, Exeter Community Centre, 17 St. David’s Hill
  • Thursday 8th December at 7pm, St. Sidwell’s Primary School, York Road

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