Public Space Protection Orders called into question
Orders restricting roller skating and cycling in a town centre have been called into question by a community leader – and there are also concerns measures to crack down on antisocial behaviour could discriminate against young people.
Stafford Borough Council is set to renew its existing Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) in December when the current rules, introduced in 2017, expire.
The existing town centre PSPOs, which aim to prevent nuisance behaviour in designated areas, already restrict alcohol consumption in the street.
New measures being introduced in the latest PSPOs include a ban on cycling, roller skating, skateboarding and scooters in designated areas. There will also be restrictions on groups of five or more people gathering or loitering if it results in intimidation to other members of the public, tents and organisations canvassing for bank details or sale of services by direct debit or face to face fund raisers.
Anyone caught falling foul of these rules will face a £75 fine – reduced to £50 if paid within 10 days.
But Councillor Gillian Pardesi brought the PSPOs up for discussion once more when she asked for clarification on behalf of residents at this month’s Community Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee.
She said: “In lockdown a couple of residents have spoken and made me question the reasons behind these orders.
“Why is cycling discouraged? If this is a decision you made because of the number of falls or serious injuries caused by cyclists through the town centre please can we see evidence of this.
“As for roller skates, are we seriously suggesting a five-year-old holding their parents’ hands is now banned through the town centre?
“We are told no more than five people can gather in the town centre – who dictates who looks threatening and is likely to cause trouble? I suggest young people will be particularly vulnerable to this subjectivity.
“Young people have their youth clubs and services taken away, then they are not allowed to congregate in the town centre in groups of five or more. We already have laws in place to address antisocial behaviour – there is every likelihood this role will be enforced in a discriminatory manner towards certain groups.”
Councillor Pardesi also asked if feedback given during the PSPO consultation period had been taken into consideration before decisions were made.
“I wonder if it was a done deal from the start and residents were presented with a tick box?” she added. “Are we some sort of autocratic borough council?”
Councillor Jeremy Pert, cabinet member for community and health, said that decisions could be called in for scrutiny – but no-one had called in the PSPOs before they were approved by the cabinet In June.
He added: “PSPOs get reviewed once every three years. There was extensive work put into the consultation on this and it was noted even by the press that the level of consultation response was 386, which is one of the most responses to any consultation the borough council has done.
“I would say there was certainly no affront to civil liberties. It is about trying to make a town centre fit for how people would like to use their town centre.
“There is significant investment by the county council in cycling, which is why we want to see people ditching the motor car and using cycle ways, public transport and legs. It’s right we should have some cycle ways – that way it’s safer and we’re not mixing pedestrians with cyclists.
“I can imagine people coming out of shops, not paying attention and being mown down by cyclists. I know of people including a councillor that have been hit by cycles in Stafford town centre.
“It’s right we take these precautions so people can enjoy Stafford town centre as they should.”
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