Keep Streets Live Official Response to Bournemouth PSPO Consultation

Keep Streets Live Official Response to Bournemouth PSPO Consultation

Keep Streets Live Campaign in Bournemouth

 

The Keep Streets Live Campaign has responded to the online Bournemouth consultation on whether to introduce a PSPO banning busking and skateboarding in large areas of the town. These proposals will make busking and skateboarding in Bournemouth a criminal offence punishable by a fine of up to £1000.  We think this proposal will have am enormously detrimental impact upon the grassroots cultural life of the town and risks criminalising vulnerable people unnecessarily. In summary we think that the proposals are a disproportionate response to problems caused by a minority of irresponsible individuals which can be adequately dealt with in other ways. You can participate in the online survey here: https://www.snapsurveys.com/wh/s.asp?k=150962689696

Please take ten minutes to give your views, they will help make a difference and give Bournemouth Borough Council an incentive to consider a different, more collaborative approach

We have provided our answers to the survey and our reasons here which you should feel free to use as a reference point:

How strongly do you agree or disagree that Bournemouth Town Centre experiences persistent and unreasonable behaviour caused by:

Skateboarding in certain areas of the town

Busking in certain area of the town

(Please tick one option per row)BournemouthBusker

Strongly Disagree

It is not busking or skateboarding that causes persistent and unreasonable behaviour, it is the actions of some individual buskers and skateboarders who behave irresponsibly and unreasonably. There is nothing intrinsic in busking or skateboarding as activities in public spaces that means that either activity should be subject to a PSPO. Instead there should be targeted and effective enforcement against the minority of individuals whose actions have a detrimental impact upon others rather than a blanket prohibition that will effectively criminalise the responsible and reasonable majority.

How much of an issue do you think the following behaviours in Bournemouth Town Centre are:

(Please tick one option per row)

Skateboarding in certain areas of the town

Busking in certain area of the town

Somewhat of an issue.

Clearly busking and skateboarding as activities have the potential to cause issues from time to time. They are part of the everyday life of towns and cities in the UK and, from time to time, people may have cause for complaint about the actions of individual buskers or skateboarders. It is not reasonable to expect that there should never be any issues with activities such as busking or skateboarding. Equally, they are activities that have the potential to bring enjoyment and vibrancy to the shared spaces of the town centre and it is difficult to see how a blanket ban using a PSPO will be helpful when existing enforcement powers can be effectively used to target the actions of an irresponsible minority.

How strongly do you agree or disagree that these behaviours should be regulated through a PSPO:

(Please tick one option per row)

Skateboarding in certain areas of the town

Busking in certain area of the town

Strongly Disagree

The problem with a PSPO when applied to activities like busking or skateboarding is that it creates a blanket criminal offence which criminalises behaviours which are not, in and of themselves harmful and are actually often beneficial to the cultural life of our towns and cities. A PSPO is a disproportionate response to the issues caused by a minority of individuals and will create a situation where unnecessary enforcement is carried out against individuals who are not causing any issues per se just because they are busking or skateboarding. A better approach would be to target enforcement against irresponsible and unreasonable behaviour using existing legislation without creating a blanket offence.

What conditions do you feel might be appropriate for skateboarding under a PSPO?
(Please tick one option)

None

What conditions do you feel might be appropriate for busking under a PSPO?

(Please tick one option)

None

How strongly do you agree or disagree with the proposed area (shown above) for the PSPOs?
(Please tick one option)

The proposed area covers a large portion of the town centre and would diminish the positive role that busking and skateboarding can play in the life of the town centre by making it a criminal offence to engage in these activities in the defined area. Once again, the proposals are disproportionate to the issues caused by busking and skateboarding. Enforcement should be targeted against those individuals who cause a negative impact through their behaviour, not against the activity per se.

Are there any particular days, times or seasons when you feel that skateboarding is worse than at other times? (Please write in below)

The phrasing of this question assumes that skateboarding is intrinsically negative in its impact as an activity whilst overlooking that for many young people it is a social activity that brings enjoyment and can contribute to their well being. Having a code of practice that outlined expected standards of behaviour with enforcement for individuals who did not comply with the code would be an effective way of managing potential negative impacts without a blanket ban.

Are there any particular days, times or seasons when you feel that busking is worse than at other times?
(Please write in below)

Once again, the phrasing of the question assumes that busking is intrinsically negative in its impact whilst overlooking the enormously positive role that busking can have in the everyday life of the town, regardless of day, time or season. Responsible and reasonable busking can have an all-year round positive impact on public spaces by bringing enjoyment to passersby, adding colour and vibrancy to shared spaces, creating a sense of urban community and providing opportunities for young people to gain performing experience in public at a time when live music venues are closing. Irresponsible and unreasonable buskers can be dealt with using existing legislation without the introduction of a blanket ban which will affect everybody, including those who are behaving reasonably.

What impact, if any, would a PSPO to regulate these behaviours have upon you?
(Please tick one option)

A negative impact

Are there any alternatives that you think we should consider? If so, please provide details below:

The council should work alongside the busking and skateboarding community as well as local residents and businesses to agree a common approach to the oversight of busking and skateboarding which does not involve the introduction of a PSPO creating a blanket criminal offence but does clearly set out expected standards of behaviour and the consequences of not following these standards using existing legislation. Birmingham City Council were considering a PSPO which would have banned amplification and ‘loud’ busking across the city centre. After working with the Keep Streets Live Campaign and the Musician’s Union alongside local businesses and residents the council re-evaluated their proposal and abandoned the PSPO. They then worked alongside the busking community to introduce a code of practice which set out clearly the expected standards of behaviours for all who busk in Birmingham with clear consequences for those who fail to abide by the guidance. The approach has proved effective with warning letters given out to those who breach the code in the first instance and targeted enforcement carried out against a minority of individuals who have caused issues. A similar approach could work well in Bournemouth and would have the benefit of targeting problematic performers without criminalising the activity per se and thereby having a hugely negative impact on those who behave responsibly and reasonably.

Are there any other comments you would like to make relating to this consultation?

This consultation does not seem to have given adequate weight to the social benefits of busking and skateboarding as activities in shared public spaces and in its wording seems to imply an assumption that these activities are almost wholly negative in their impact. Busking is an important part of the grassroots cultural life of the town and limiting or criminalising it using a PSPO will have a negative impact on the lives of many responsible buskers whilst also diminishing the enjoyment of the shared spaces of the city for visitors and residents alike.

The main problem with a PSPO is that it creates a blanket criminal offence which does not distinguish between responsible and reasonable behaviour and assumes that busking and skateboarding are intrinsically negative in their impact when, in fact, both activities have enormous potential to have a positive impact. A PSPO is a disproportionate response to the issues caused by a minority of performers which can be effectively addressed using an alternative approach.

Jonny Walker

Founding director of the Keep Streets Live Campaign, an organisation which campaigns for public spaces which are open to informal offerings of art and music.

Protect Civic Freedoms – Complete the Doncaster PSPO Consultation

Protect Civic Freedoms – Complete the Doncaster PSPO Consultation

Sign the petition against Doncaster’s Public Space Protection Order proposals which could see highly vulnerable people criminalised and bans on busking and even ‘being likely to cause annoyance’

Please take 10 minutes to complete this online consultation on Doncaster Council’s proposals to introduce a town centre PSPO that will affect cultural activities such as busking, criminalise highly vulnerable people and introduce nebulous new criminal offences. The Keep Streets Live Campaign has completed the online consultation and provided our answers to why we are opposing this PSPO. Please feel free to use our answers as a reference:

 

1. Requesting money, donations or goods including through placing of hats, clothing or containers.

This should be prohibited

This should not be prohibited

Don’t know

No comment to make

Additional comments

This prohibition would, perhaps unintentionally, have the effect of criminalising buskers who traditionally put out a hat, musical instrument case or similar to receive donations for performing music. Doncaster is well known for its vibrant cultural scene and is popular with buskers. The wording of this prohibition is too wide and should be changed so it doesn’t criminalise a grassroots cultural activity that brings vibrancy to the city centre.

Additionally this proposal criminalises vulnerable and destitute people who will have no means of paying punitive fines which will drag them into the criminal justice system. The police already have powers to target people for begging and can use their discretion to target people who use intimidation or aggressiveness rather than people who sit passively collecting with a container without causing harm to other people. Instead of introducing this general and wide-ranging prohibition the council and police should target those whose behaviour is causing specific harm to others.

2. Loitering around pay machines (including banks, supermarkets) unless waiting to legitimately use them.

This should be prohibited

This should not be prohibited

Don’t know

No comment to make

Additional comments?

This prohibition is too vague and wide-ranging in its scope. It allows people to be criminalised for a perceived ‘offence’ which might not occurred. A person may have a legitimate reason to be in the vicinity of a pay machine and yet fall foul of this prohibition because they are not waiting to use a machine. The prohibition creates a nebulous offence with a highly subjective element which is open to misuse and is too far-ranging.

3. Returning to the Town Centre within 24 hours after being requested to leave by an authorised officer due to them behaving in a manner causing or likely to cause harassment, alarm, distress, nuisance or annoyance.

This should be prohibited

This should not be prohibited

Don’t know

No comment to make

Additional comments?

Once again, the problem with this prohibition is that it brings a highly subjective element into the realm of criminal law. Causing alarm, harassment and distress to another person is already a criminal offence under existing powers which makes this prohibition unnecessary except that it also catches behaviour that causes or is likely to cause nuisance or annoyance, terms that have a very subjective element and could lead to people being banned from the town centre because in the subjective opinion of an authorised officer their behaviour was likely to cause ‘annoyance’. This is a wide-ranging power with a very low evidential threshold which is far too open to misuse.

4. Congregating in a group of three or more people and behave in a manner causing or likely to cause harassment, alarm, distress, nuisance or annoyance to any person within the Town Centre.

This should be prohibited

This should not be prohibited

Don’t know

No comment to make

Additional comments?

Once again this prohibition creates the potential for people to be criminalised because in the subjective opinion of an authorised officer their behaviour is seen as ‘likely’ to cause annoyance to any person. This is a nebulous prohibition which is far too open to misuse and could easily lead to a boisterous group of friends enjoying themselves being criminalised because someone found them to be likely to cause annoyance to any person even though their behaviour was not harmful in any way.

6. Ingest, inhale, inject, smoke or otherwise use intoxicating substances within the Town Centre or possess any item that can be used to assist in the taking of intoxicating substances.

This should be prohibited

This should not be prohibited

Dont know

No comment to make

Additional comments?

Once again this prohibition is too wide-ranging, catch-all and scattergun in its approach, particularly the clause that makes it a criminal offence to possess ANY item that can be used to assist in the taking of intoxicating substances. There are a wide range of innocuous, everyday items that can be used to assist in the taking of intoxicating substances and this prohibition criminalises people for possessing such items even if they are in no way being used to assist in the taking of substances. Also there is an inherent evidential difficulty involved in proving whether a substance is ‘intoxicating’ without proper testing prior to giving out on the spot fines.

7. Urinating or defecating other than in public toilets.

This should be prohibited

This should not be prohibited

Don’t know

No comment to make

Additional comments?

8. Camping or sleeping overnight with or without a tent, or using a vehicle, caravan or any other structure in a public place.

This should be prohibited

This should not be prohibited

Don’t know

No comment to make

Additional comments?

OK

This prohibition targets highly vulnerable people including the homeless and the vulnerably-housed and creates an unnecessary and perverse criminal offence of ‘sleeping overnight’ in a public place. People sleep rough for a wide variety of reasons, many feel safer in the communal centre of a town than in certain hostels. It is inappropriate to create a criminal offence which has a disproportionately high impact on highly vulnerable people within the community. On the matter of tents and ‘any other structures’, once again the order is too wide ranging and potentially open to abuse to be helpful. Many people use structures or tents to take shelter from the elements and this prohibition could put vulnerable people at greater risk. This seems an entirely wrong-headed way of addressing the social complexities stemming from the rise in people who are homeless or vulnerably housed.

9. Making approaches to people with the intention of entering into any arrangements which involve people making future payments for the benefit of charity, access to credit or other purposes – unless authorised by the Council.

This should be prohibited

This should not be prohibited

Don’t know

 

Additional comments?

The prohibition creates a criminal offence where one does not need to exist. If the behaviour of certain fundraisers causes concerns it can be dealt with using existing powers rather than creating new criminal offence.

No comment to make

Additional comments?

The prohibition creates a criminal offence where one does not need to exist. If the behaviour of certain fundraisers causes concerns it can be dealt with using existing powers rather than creating new criminal offence.

10. Loitering, standing around, touch or interfere with any parking equipment, in the Town Centre.

This should be prohibited

This should not be prohibited

Don’t know

No comment to make

Additional comments?

This prohibition creates a nebulous offence which could effectively criminalise someone for waiting in line for a parking ticket or even standing (or loitering) near a parking machine. This prohibition creates the potential to criminalise people unintentionally and unnecessarily for innocuous reasons.

Do you have any other general comments to make?

Many of these prohibitions are too wide-ranging, poorly constructed and nebulous in effect because they often simply replicate existing powers but with a much lower evidential threshold.

These prohibitions catch behaviours that are themselves innocuous and too often target highly  vulnerable people. Of particular concern are the clauses that ban people from sleeping in the town centre with or without tents and the clause that effectively bans people from busking. The clauses that create effective banning orders for being perceived as likely to cause annoyance are very open to misuse.

The order should either be re-written in a way that makes it far less nebulous and far-reaching or else abandoned altogether.

Support the Keep Streets Live Campaign’s petition against the criminalisation of street culture in Romford

The Keep Streets Live Campaign has set up a new online petition against plans to criminalise buskers in Romford which you can support at this link

:

https://www.change.org/p/havering-borough-council-don-t-ban-romford-s-buskers-don-t-criminalise-the-destitute

When a video of 15 year old Alfie Sheard busking went viral in February 2017 it took him from the streets of Doncaster to the studios of Burbank, California where he was invited to play in front of millions of viewers on the Ellen Degeneres show and presented with a guitar by his hero Ed Sheeran. Under controversial new proposalswhich are now under public consultation online, from Havering Borough Council to ban all busking with any amplification in Romford and to restrict it to designated spots using a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO), Alfie would have been committing a criminal offence punishable by a fine of up to £1000.  These draconian proposals, if implemented, would turn Romford town centre into a no-go area for busking and would do immense damage to the grassroots cultural life of the town at a time when opportunities for young artists to perform and audiences to encounter live music are being greatly diminished by the closure of live venues.

Many contemporary street musicians and artists use some amplification to support outdoor musical performances. Some use quiet instruments or music technology which can’t work effectively without amplification. These include keyboards, electric violins, mandolins, guitars as well as loop pedals which are an increasingly common part of contemporary musical performances. Instead of criminalising all amplification in catch-all proposals, the local authority should target enforcement action against those performers who have caused a persistent issue with noise nuisance, whether amplified or unamplified, using their existing statutory powers such as the power to issue noise abatement notices and confiscate musical instruments under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. A blanket ban on all amplification in Romford would also potentially criminalise residents who used a loudspeaker or microphone during a peaceful protest thereby infringing their rights under Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Romford’s draft Public Space Protection Order would also criminalise ‘begging and the seeking of alms’ in proposals that have come under strong criticism in a letter sent to Havering Borough Council from leading Human Rights advocacy group Liberty because of the impact these new powers will have against the most vulnerable and destitute people in Romford. Anyone caught begging or seeking ‘alms’ (A term which is left undefined in the draft proposals) could face an on-the-spot fine of £100 rising to £1000 if unpaid. At a time when homelessness and destitution is rising across the UK, these new powers will do immense damage to the most vulnerable members of society as well as representing a waste of public money as the fines will not be able to be paid and the cost of processing people through the courts does not represent good use of scarce public resources. The police and council already have a wide range of existing powers that can be used to target aggressive begging or busking that causes a genuine nuisance. The new powers will criminalise people who are doing no harm.

My name is Jonny Walker and I am the founding director of the Keep Streets Live Campaign, a not-for-profit organisation that campaigns for public spaces which are open to informal offerings of art and music and other community uses. We have campaigned against the use of PSPOS to criminalise busking and homelessness  across the UK and have also advised the mayoral Busk in London taskforce on how to make the Greater London area more busker friendly. In Oxford and Chester the local authorities made significant changes to PSPO proposals to avoid criminalising the homeless and the most vulnerable whilst in Birmingham, one of the biggest local authorities in the UK, proposals to criminalise all busking with amplifiers using a PSPO was replaced by new busking guidance jointly agreed between the local authority, business and residents groups, the Keep Streets Live Campaign, Musician’s Union and Equity. This collaborative new approach, also adopted by Liverpool, York, Chester, Canterbury and other cities targets enforcement action against the small minority of buskers who cause persistent nuisance, whilst encouraging street artists and musicians to make the public spaces in those towns and cities welcoming and vibrant places.

I know from personal experience that Romford is not always a welcoming place for buskers because I was nearly arrested there in December 2015, before I had even played a note, because a police officer wrongly believed that busking constituted antisocial behaviour. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the highly sociable role that busking plays in our town centres by bringing people together and creating a vibrant and welcoming public spaces. The use of a so-called Public Space Protection Order to criminalise a sociable and beneficial community activity is entirely misplaced. The Keep Streets Live Campaign now publicly calls on Havering Borough Council to remove their plans to criminalise busking with a PSPO and to instead work alongside the Keep Streets Live Campaign, Musician’s Union and Equity to bring in new busking guidance allowing swift enforcement to be taken against buskers who cause a real nuisance whilst street art and music to flourish. We also ask that the council remove the clause on ‘begging and seeking alms’ and to concentrate scarce resources at a time of rising homelessness and desitution on protecting the most vulnerable instead of prosecuting them and to use existing powers to target only those whose behaviour genuine causes alarm, harassment and distress to others.