Powers to tackle anti-social behaviour in the city centre have today (Tuesday) been introduced by Stoke-on-Trent City Council, working with Staffordshire Police.
The powers vary a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) currently in operation in the city centre. PSPOs are tools used in towns and cities across the UK to address issues in public spaces that have a detrimental effect on those living, visiting or working there. The variations follow an extensive consultation with residents, businesses, landlords and organisations between October and December 2018.
Over 1,000 businesses, residents and community groups received a letter inviting them to take part in the consultation, which was covered by the media, advertised on-line as well as signposted within the areas where the PSPO was proposed. A public meeting was also held. In addition, responses were collected from a number of community services including the Community Drug and Alcohol Service, Rough Sleepers Team, Voices, Street Chaplains, Brighter Futures, Shelter, Samaritans, residents associations, businesses, West Midlands Ambulance Service, the Department for Work and Pensions, as well as visitors to the city centre.
The consultation results showed that the majority of respondents were in favour of introducing measures through the PSPO to tackle anti-social behaviour that has or is likely to have a detrimental effect on those living, visiting or working in the city centre. Only 10 per cent were not supportive of the action.
The variation of the PSPO enables the council and police to deal with specific behaviour and activities that are unreasonable and persistent in a particular area. PSPOs restrict what people can do and how they behave in a defined area; and can also require certain things to be done.
As a result of the feedback from respondents and local and national charities, the PSPO is varied to include the following provisions:
- No person shall have in their possession an open vessel containing alcohol other than in the grounds of licensed premises or in accordance with an organised licensed event.
- No person shall beg in a manner which is likely to be intimidating or aggressive or within five metres of a cash machine.
- Any person within the restricted area is prohibited from causing or permitting an obstruction on the street, an area of green space or a public convenience after being requested to remove the obstruction by an authorised officer and having been given reasonable time to remove the obstruction.
- Any person within the restricted area is prohibited from swearing to cause harassment, alarm or distress or engaging in behaviour that causes or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress.
The area covered by the PSPO now includes the city centre, Festival Park, Octagon Retail Park, Hanley Park, the Portland Street estate, as well as the city centre.
Figures from Staffordshire Police show that there were over 1,500 reported incidents of anti-social behaviour in the areas covered by the order between 2017 and 2018.
Councillor Ann James, leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council said: “An extensive amount of work has gone into understanding people’s views on what is a very complex issue. We have listened and are confident that the introduction of this Public Space Protection Order alongside the other support measures that we have in place will continue to help us make Stoke-on-Trent a great place to live, work and visit.”
Councillor Randolph Conteh, cabinet member for housing, communities and safer city, said: “We have listened extensively through the consultation. A total of 65.5 per cent of the respondents – an overwhelming majority – were supportive of us working alongside partners to take these measures to tackle anti-social behaviour by a very small minority in our city centre. Only 10 per cent of respondents did not support the Public Space Protection Order. These prohibitions will help us to deal with the root cause of the activities that are having a detrimental effect in the city including street drinking, intimidation, inappropriate use of public amenities and allow us to address concerns about safety. In short, adopting this PSPO will help us make the city a safer and more enjoyable place to live, visit and work.
“We have worked closely with a number of groups such as Brighter Futures, Voices, Shelter and the Samaritans and listened to direct feedback from a range of people and organisations. As a result we have amended elements of the Public Space Protection Order. This will make ensure that those who are vulnerable in the city centre are supported in the right way and signposted to support services at all points.”
Chief Inspector John Owen, commander of the Stoke North neighbourhood policing team with responsibility for Hanley, said: “I welcome the creation of a PSPO for the city centre.
“A PSPO will give us and partners additional powers to help tackle the issues faced in the city centre. As a partnership we have already made positive steps in Hanley and implementing this significant tool will help us all deliver a safer city centre for people to work, live and visit.”
Staffordshire Business Crime Partnership manager Julie Davies said: “Crime and disorder impacts on both the retail and night time economies in the city centre. It has an adverse effect on all those who visit, work, live and invest there.
“Through the business crime partnership, businesses work hard together on campaigns and initiatives, and share intelligence and information on matters which directly impact on them and their staff and customers. We strive to make the city centre a safer, more pleasant place to visit and to improve negative perceptions. Additional tools that help to protect businesses and visitors will further support this work, in conjunction with a number of agencies working together to provide appropriate and relevant support to people in need where it is appropriate.”
Jonathan Bellamy, chair of the city centre Business Improvement District (BID), said: "One of the priority issues for businesses in our core city centre, of which there are nearly 500, is to see work done towards dealing with recurring anti-social behaviour. ASB issues undermine the quality of experience that city centre shoppers, tourists and visitors can receive, and the knock-on of this means fewer people coming into our city centre, for less time.
“These businesses employ thousands of local people, and at a time where it is regularly reported that there are significant challenges facing our high street stores, we cannot be complacent about improving our city centre wherever possible. A healthy and flourishing Stoke-on-Trent city centre is vital for us all! So it is encouraging news that the additional measures outlined in the recently proposed PSPO have been adopted, and the city centre BID adds its support and endorsement."
Alongside the PSPO, the city council has increased its team of anti-social behaviour officers. They will work across the city to support residents and businesses in tackling issues in communities. The Business Crime Reduction Partnership also operates in the city centre, and brings businesses together, by sharing intelligence and joining in safety campaigns.
Councillor Conteh added: “The PSPO will be undertaken in conjunction with a raft of other support measures and discretion will be applied as a matter of course. This is about working in a co-ordinated way with the right tools in place. These challenges are common to those in many towns and cities and we want to confidently offer the right support and be able to tackle issues where we need to so that we can ensure our city centre is a welcoming place for people to come.”
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