At the Communities Parks and Leisure Committee meeting, Green Councillors voted against the Council’s proposals to introduce a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) in the City Centre. Under the draft PSPO, people could be sanctioned for loitering, begging or drinking alcohol.
Green Party Councillor for Gleadless Valley Marieanne Elliot said,
“The Public Sector Protection Order, as described in the consultation document, would mean that someone sitting on the floor, quietly with a hat, could be regarded as someone who is likely to cause harassment, nuisance or annoyance. Is it really sensible to issue a £100 Penalty Charge Notice to someone who is begging?
“There is also the issue of what sort of behaviour is regarded as acceptable or unacceptable. A family having a glass of wine with a picnic in the Peace Gardens could well be treated differently from someone sitting on their own with a can of lager. It is not at all clear what would be a fair application of the rules in these circumstances.
“The proposed definition of loitering raises lots of questions. It could potentially criminalise groups of students and young people, not drinking alcohol, just enjoying being outside on a warm evening.
“There seems to be an intention to explicitly address issues outside banks and supermarkets, but not outside independent shops and businesses.
“If a Public Space Protection Order comes into force, there is a serious possibility that the unwanted behaviours (drinking alcohol, loitering, urinating, begging) will be displaced to adjacent communities around the city centre, like Netherthorpe, Lansdowne, Park Hill, St Mary’s, Leverton and Kelham Island. There is currently no coherent plan for addressing this displacement.
“The council could use resources more effectively by working on tackling some of the root causes, rather than considering punishing people with punitive sanctions. There is extensive empirical research that says this sort of action can disproportionately affect the most vulnerable; people experiencing trauma, poverty, unmet support needs, those excluded from the housing market. There are excellent voluntary sector organisations in Sheffield, helping to support these people, and they could do with more support.
It is frustrating that, on one hand, council licences are granted to 24 hour booze shops all over the city centre and on the other, they are considering banning city centre drinking in public places. Also, the council could provide more public toilet facilities in the city centre.
“It is reported that Sheffield is one of the safest cities in the UK. We also heard that the police now have 50% more officers operating in the City Centre, this is very welcome news and surely means there is more opportunity to address actual illegal activity.
A PSPO needs to be justified so there must be reasonable grounds to impose it, that is the legal test¹ and it’s not clear this has been met.”
Green Party Councillor for Walkley, Bernard Little said,
“As a councillor for Netherthorpe, Upperthorpe and Walkley, I’m surprised that I wasn’t directly consulted about the plans. The map of the proposed PSPO shows that some of the ward will be inside and some of it outside the protected area. There is obvious risk of displacement to residential areas and this needs to be discussed with our communities living in those areas.
This proposal is ill-conceived and will impact a group of vulnerable people that need safe places and support.”
The majority of the Committee voted in support of the draft PSPO and to begin formal consultation, with only the 2 Green Councillors, Marieanne Elliot and Bernard Little, voting against.
¹Anti Social Behaviour, Crime & Policing Act 2014 s.59 (3) (c)