PSPO proposals amended following largest ever consultation response

17 November 2015

Proposals for a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) for Chester city centre have been changed following one of the largest ever consultation responses received by Cheshire West and Chester Council.

Officers have analysed almost 1,800 completed questionnaires together with hundreds of comments received through other channels including online platforms discussions with key interest groups.

The PSPO proposals were developed in response to concerns about anti-social behaviour and other issues that affect the quality of life of residents, businesses and visitors.

A 12-week public consultation to gather views on seven measures which could be addressed through an order, including taking legal highs and drinking alcohol in public, ended in October.

The analysis has shown that three measures had clear support, two generated mixed views and two received less support.

There was clear support for an order to deter public urination and defecation, to introduce a controlled alcohol zone, and to prevent the use of legal highs.

Mixed views were received on the use of a PSPO to deter begging and to restrict the feeding of birds, although the overall response for both measures was slightly more in favour than against.

There was less support for the use of a PSPO to deter rough sleeping and to deter inconsiderate busking, with the majority of respondents opposing these measures.

However, more than three-quarters (77 percent) of respondents wanted the Council to work on a new code of practice for street entertainers. 
The Council’s Children and Families Policy and Performance Panel will consider the consultation feedback and the proposed next steps when it meets next Monday (23 November).

The report to the panel recommends the removal of the rough sleeping and busking measures from the PSPO proposals and further discussion on the five other measures, including a review of the evidence required to meet the grounds for making an order.
A decision on whether to implement a PSPO is expected to be taken by Cabinet early in 2016.

Councillor Nicole Meardon, Cabinet Member for Children and Families, said: “We are a Council that listens to our residents. At the launch of this consultation we urged residents, businesses, visitors and everyone else with an interest in Chester to let us know their views - and we have not been disappointed.

“Over the past 12 weeks we have engaged with groups of people who will be impacted by the PSPO proposals and the results clearly show that there is no appetite for fining homeless people or licensing busking and street performance.

“We have responded to this feedback by recommending that these measures are removed from the proposals, and I look forward to continuing discussions about the measures where public opinion is mixed.” Assistant Chief Constable Mark Roberts of Cheshire Police said: “The response that was received during the consultation period of the PSPO was excellent in terms of both the volume and detail included in the feedback.

“It gives us a clear sense of what the public want around some of the key measures. We recognise that there are a range of options open to us with partners, which do include enforcement action, but equally it should be acknowledged that Chester has provisions to support vulnerable people in the area.

“The Police will support the Council as they move forward to in relation to the PSPO and work with them to enforce these measures as deemed fit. Chester is a safe place, and by all working together we can continue to keep the family friendly atmosphere which is appreciated by residents and visitors alike.”

The panel report also details the actions underway to address issues associated with busking and rough sleeping, independent of the PSPO proposals.

Councillors and officers are already working with businesses and busking representatives to develop a new code of practice for busking and to consider how a revised reporting and enforcement process would operate.

On the issue of rough sleeping, emergency safe seat provision is being improved and expanded in both Chester city centre and in Northwich, while the use of the Outreach bus to provide emergency overnight sleeping facilities is to be expanded.

The Administration has commissioned an independent review of the homelessness contract to assess its performance and identify any remedial measures that may be necessary.

Meanwhile, an awareness campaign urging people who wish to support homeless people in Chester to donate to local organisations, rather than give cash to street beggars, will be launched later this month. Further details of the ‘Your Kindness Can Kill’ campaign will follow in the coming days.

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