July 15, 2016
Green councillors yesterday set out their opposition to a council plan to introduce Public Space Protection Orders in the city’s open spaces, calling for a delay to allow time to improve the effectiveness of the proposals. The proposal was agreed by Labour and Conservative councillors at the meeting of the Policy and Resources committee on Thursday.
Councillors Ollie Sykes and Phélim Mac Cafferty have recently been instrumental in tackling antisocial behaviour on Brunswick Square, working in partnership with police and residents and using existing legislation to resolve the issue. They expressed concern that Public Space Protection Orders add little to existing powers while carrying a high risk of legal challenge.
Public Space Protection Orders have been highly controversial in some areas of the country, such as in neighbouring Worthing, where they are proposed to be used to fine street beggars, despite a massive 86,000-strong petition against the plans. Greens say the legislation is heavy-handed and could have a discriminatory impact on certain protected groups.
Councillor Mac Cafferty, Convenor of the Green Group said:
“We have major concerns with the speed with which these proposals are being pushed through, despite threats of legal challenge and significant equality impacts having been identified by Council officers.
“We know the distress and damage that can be caused when people camp or move vehicles onto our sensitive open spaces in the city. That’s why we pushed so hard to create a permanent and transit site for travellers when we were in administration, so that these groups would have spaces to move to which would not lead to such a negative impact on residents.
“It is important that the approach we take to unauthorised encampments recognises the growing problem of rough sleeping in the city which has led to a rise of individuals sleeping in tents. In dealing with this problem it is often necessary to take a nuanced approach which ensures vulnerable people can access any support they need.
“We welcome the recent recommendation from the Fairness Commission to create negotiated stopping places for Travellers, which is a continuation of our approach and means there are alternatives for Travellers which prevents them from being moved from one sensitive site to another.
“While we support any measure that allows us to better deal with distress caused by antisocial behaviour which might be associated with some unauthorised encampments, we need to get it right. We must ensure that any new powers are not applied unlawfully, and that alternative sites are available to prevent displacement to other sensitive sites. We should also ensure that sites such as the seafront squares are recognised as sensitive sites when developing our approach. It is important that we have a clear strategy which is fair, proportionate and robust and balances the need to prevent antisocial behaviour with ensuring vulnerable groups are protected”.
Cllr Ollie Sykes also spoke on the issue at the Policy, Resources and Growth Committee on Thursday, and his comments can be found here: http://brighton-hove.public-i.tv/core/share/open/webcast/0/0/560/229545/0/0/start_time/2037000