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.

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.

KSL Official Response to Exeter PSPO Consultation

KSL Official Response to Exeter PSPO Consultation

Please sign our petition against Exeter City Council’s plans to criminalise homeless people and destroy their possessions. Protect civic freedoms and street culture in Exeter

azdQOSLlzGJhfaM-800x450-noPadLabour-led Exeter City Council’s new proposed ‘Public Space Protection Order'(PSPO) will give the police and council officers in that city the power to criminalise activities that they deem to be ‘antisocial’ such as rough sleeping, begging, or even busking. These proposals could also see some of the most impoverished people in the UK facing criminal charges and unpayable fines of up to £1000 just for refusing to remove their bedding when ordered to by a council official, or busking ‘without authorisation’.

The Keep Streets Live Campaign exists to advocate for public spaces that are open to informal offerings of art and music and other community uses. We are against the criminalisation of destitution and homelessness and believe that these plans, whatever the council’s underlying motivation, will have a devastating impact upon some of the most vulnerable people in society, whilst also criminalising cultural activities such as busking. The council are running an online consultation about the proposals which closes at midnight on Febuary 29thand it is vitally important that as many people as possible complete the consultation and inform the council that these draconian and authoritarian measures do not have public support.

You can complete the online consultation on the council website here:

http://exeter.gov.uk/council-and-democracy/consultations-and-petitions/public-spaces-protection-order-consultation/

We have completed our submission to the consultation and are publishing our response below for the public record. Please feel free to use our response as a reference/guide when you complete your submission. It clearly explains the reasons why we are opposed to this PSPO.

If you can, please take a few minutes and complete this consultation, it will make a big difference, and your voice does matter.

KSL Official Response to Consultation 

There are six prohibitions and actions that the council want to include in the PSPO. We will publish the proposals in bold lettering and our response will be in italics.

It is proposed that the PSPO will stipulate:

Person(s) within this area, whilst situated in the street or other public space where the public have access without payment, shall:

1. Surrender any intoxicating substance in their possession to an authorised person on request, if:

a) they are found to be ingesting, inhaling, injecting, smoking or otherwise using intoxicating substances; or

b) they are in possession of such intoxicating substances with the intent of using intoxicating subtances within this area; or

c) the authorised person has reasonable grounds to believe that such person is using or intends to use the intoxicating substance within the said area.

Intoxicating Substances is given the following definition (which includes Alcohol and what are commonly referred to as ‘legal highs’): Substances with the capacity to stimulate or depress the central nervous system.

NO

Whilst these powers could in theory apply to a young couple who had bought a bottle of Prosecco for an impromptu summer picnic on the green, these powers could easily be and will most probably be used to target vulnerable and marginalised persons, such as homeless or vulnerably housed persons, or people with mental health problems. Whilst no one could reasonably object to a person facing enforcement action if their behaviour causes alarm, harassment or distress to others, this measure, in contrast allows council officers to target people solely on the basis that they have ‘reasonable grounds’ to believe that they will use an intoxicating substance within the PSPO area. This power would allow officers to seize legally purchased and unopened bottles containing alcohol, even if the person wasn’t drinking the alcohol at the time. As such, it is an unwarranted interference with the personal freedoms of individuals. Also there is no clear mechanism for an officer to establish beyond doubt that a so-called intoxicating substance has not been obtained lawfully and for a lawful, medicinal purpose. The PSPO creates a blanket power which is open to potential misuse. It would be better for the council and the police to focus upon known individuals whose actual behaviour is having a detrimental impact on the local community. These known individuals could be targeted rather than a blanket power which applies to every person, even if their behaviour is having no detrimental impact on any person. 

 

2. Not urinate in a street or public open space

The term ‘street’ includes any road, footway, beach or other area to which the public have access without payment. It also includes a service area as defined in Section 329 of the Highways Act 1980. Other areas will include parks and retail car parks to which the public have access to without payment.

Exemptions shall apply where a person urinating is making use of an authorised temporary public urinal/toilet has been provided in accordance with any specification issued by Exeter City Council and with its agreement.

Q2.

Do you agree with Proposal 2?

 

No

Q2.1.

Do you have any comments about Proposal 2? Please write these below

The powers could too easily be used to target vulnerable people who do not have access to public toilet facilities, especially during the nighttime hours. Existing legislation can adequately be used against persons who behave inappropriately, including public urination.

3. Clear away and remove from this area without delay (to the satisfaction of an authorised person) any unauthorised bivouac, bedding or equipment formed in a street together with any associated paraphernalia, when requested to do so by an authorised person and if that person fails to clear away and remove as directed an authorised person may then or on a future date or time confiscate and dispose of any unauthorised bivouac, bedding or encampment found within this area with or without the permission of its owner.

For these purposes, bivouac, bedding and encampment mean any portable shelter used for camping or outdoor sleeping, and include materials used for shelter against the elements, weather or ground.

For this purpose ‘unauthorised’ means without the express written consent of any owner (or any person having control over or an interest in the land in question).

Q3.

Do you agree with Proposal 3?

No

It is highly distressing to see a Labour-led local authority even considering implementing these ill-thought out and authoritarian measures. This measure would make it a summary criminal offence, punishable by a fine of up to £1000 for a homeless person to not immediately remove their sleeping bag, or blanket when ordered to do so by a council officer, and gives the council the power to confiscate and destroy the bedding and possessions of homeless people on the basis that they had the temerity to object to being moved on. The extension of summary powers such as this to the local authority wrongly conflates destitution and lack of housing with ‘anti-social behaviour’. It will cause highly vulnerable people to become less safe and to face criminal sanctions purely on account of having to sleep rough. It means vulnerable people will be subject to potential bullying at the hands of council officers who will have the power to destroy their personal possessions if they don’t comply with orders that might be unreasonable and misconstrued. At a time of rising homelessness it is a disgrace that a Labour-led council in particular should be considering measures that criminalise the most vulnerable members of society and make their lives more difficult in a misguided attempt to sanitise the public spaces of the city. The local authority would do better to urgently address the provision of housing places for those who are inadequately housed and treatment for those suffering from addiction or mental health issues, instead of creating a criminal offence which will be used to marginalise the vulnerable and the destitute.

4.

 Not make unsolicited and/or unauthorised request(s) for money (whether expressly requested or impliedly requested by conduct) in a public place from persons not known to the perpetrator.

For this purpose ‘unauthorised’ means without the express written consent of any owner (or person having control over or an interest in the land in question).

No

In common with proposal 3, proposal 4 will impact the poorest and most vulnerable members of society in a disproportionate and manifestly unjust way. The vast majority of people who beg are highly vulnerable and often destitute and are reduced to begging in order to obtain food and shelter. The proposal is world in such a way that even a person who was sat down, without causing any issues to any other person, could face a criminal fine of up to £1000 and a court action which would, in itself, be costly and would in no meaningful way change their behaviour because they would now have a fine that they could not possibly pay, as well as a criminal record which would cause them to be more marginalised and isolated from society. Additionally begging is already illegal under the 1824 Vagrancy Act which gives the police ample powers to seek to prosecute persons for begging if it was deemed to be in the public interest. Instead of giving an enormous range of new delegated powers to council officials which could see a large number of fixed penalty notices given to people with no ability to pay them and a resultant rise in costly magistrate’s court hearings and the mixing up of vulnerable people in the criminal justice system, the council and the police should focus purely on the small minority of people who combine begging with genuinely aggressive and intimidating behaviour and use existing legislation to target those individuals rather than creating a new criminal offence.

This measure as currently worded would also criminalise ‘unauthorised’ busking because playing an instrument or singing on the street could be construed as an implied request for money. This is an absurd outcome, conflating a cultural activity which brings enjoyment and colour to the public spaces of a city, with a criminal, antisocial activity. It would lead to scarce public resources being directed towards the prosecution of people playing music on the street. It is contrary to Home Office advice on the use of Antisocial Behaviour legislation and is also likely to be an infringement of Article 10 rights to Freedom of Expression under the Human Rights Act. It is fundamentally misconceived.

5. Not behave either individually or in a group of two or more people in a manner that has resulted or is likely to result in any member of the public being intimidated, harassed, alarmed or distressed by that behaviour

No,

 

6. Persons within this area who breach Prohibition 5 while in a group shall when ordered to do so by an authorised officer disperse either immediately or by such time as may be specified and in such a manner as may be specified.

Q6.

Do you agree with Proposal 6?

No

Q6.1.

Do you have any comments about Proposal 5 and 6? Please write these below.

Under the Public Order Act 1986 it is already a criminal offence to behave in a manner which causes Alarm, Harassment and Distress to other people. There are existing powers that can be used to disperse people who are causing antisocial behaviour, including Section 35  dispersal notices which can order a person or persons to leave an area for 48 hours. The PSPO proposal is too broad and does not have enough safeguards. It is also unnecessary.  The police and council have no need of this summary PSPO power which would extend the power to criminalise people to ‘authorised officers’ on the basis that they have a’ reasonable belief’ IS LIKELY to result in ANY member of the public being intimidated, harassed, alarmed or distressed by that behaviour. This wording is vague and nebulous and has the effect of extending summary powers to persons without the benefit of the extensive training that police officers undertake before becoming officers of the law. This proposal would allow a person to criminalise a person, or group of people purely because they take a subjective view that their behaviour ‘is likely’ to cause distress to ‘any’ person. This is bad lawmaking and can be rightly construed as an attack on freedom of association. It will radically alter the relationship between local authority officers and the people they are paid to serve and protect. The police and council should use their existing powers to target genuine examples of antisocial behaviour using their existing powers.