Public Space Protection Orders – a further tool in the local government armoury

Public Space Protection Orders – a further tool in the local government armoury

PSPOs – or Public Space Protection Orders – were introduced under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. The PSPO provides local authorities with additional powers within a defined area to tackle a wide range of anti-social behaviours.

Despite being available for several years as a tool for local authorities to use in their battle against anti-social behaviour, PSPOs have featured in the media as a possible solution to a range of anti-social behaviours.

Birmingham City Council recently closed their consultation on the implementation of a PSPO to prevent begging which caused nuisance or disorder and anti-social street drinking. The BBC also reported that the Council had been considering a PSPO to prevent protests taking place at a school in Birmingham. In an attempt to tackle very different issues, Bristol City Council who has 15 PSPOs already in place, launched a consultation in May 2019 which would see dogs banned from a park in Bedminster. Following the decision of the London Borough of Ealing to establish a PSPO for the purpose of preventing protests and vigils outside a clinic in the borough and its challenge in the High Court, adoption of PSPOs to prevent similar protests and vigils in Welsh towns and cities were discussed by Assembly Members in the National Assembly for Wales.

The aim of a PSPO is to ensure that public spaces can be enjoyed free from anti-social behaviour. Under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 ‘anti-social behaviour’ is defined as conduct:

  • that has caused, or is likely to cause, harassment, alarm or distress to any person;
  • capable of causing nuisance or annoyance to a person in relation to that person’s occupation of residential premises; or
  • capable of causing housing-related nuisance or annoyance to any person.

Therefore, and as can be seen by the wide application of the power so far, PSPOs are a broad power for local authorities.

PSPOs are made following the statutory procedure under the 2014 Act, and the local authority must be satisfied that the conditions set out under that act have been met. These are:

  • activities that have taken place have had a detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality, or it is likely that activities will take place and that they will have a detrimental effect
  • the effect or likely effect of these activities (i) is, or is likely to be, persistent or continuing in nature (ii) is, or is likely to be, unreasonable and (iii) justifies the restrictions being imposed.

In pursing the possibility of making a PSPO, the local authority should ensure early engagement with partners and stakeholders to understand the issue which it is trying to resolve. This should include early contact with interest groups when a local authority is scoping its proposals before starting the statutory consultation.

The 2014 Act contains a statutory appeal process that may be instigated in the High Court by an interested person, meaning an individual who lives in the area to which the PSPO applies, or who regularly works in or visits that area.

For further information, please get in touch with our public law team.

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