Official KSLC response to Havering Borough Council’s proposed PSPO in Romford town centre

Official KSLC response to Havering Borough Council’s proposed PSPO in Romford town centre


Havering Borough Council are conducting an online consultation into their plans to introduce a Public Space Protection Order in Romford town centre which would criminalise busking and make it easier to target vulnerable people for ‘seeking alms’. The Keep Streets Live Campaign is asking Havering to rethink their proposals and this is our official response to their plans.

Please take a moment to fill in the online consultation and, if you agree with our criticisms, join us in asking them to think again.

You should feel free to use some of the points we have made below as a guide when making your response. The more people that get in touch with Havering Council, the greater our chance of asking them to rethink their proposals is. Here is the link:

Keep Streets Live Campaign response to Havering Borough Council PSPO consultation 

I am the founder and the director of the Keep Streets Live Campaign, a not for profit organisation which exists to advocate for public spaces which are open to informal offerings of art and music and other community uses. We started the online petition, so far signed by over 1500 people, asking Havering Borough Council to rethink its PSPO proposals:

We are have specific concerns about the scope of the proposed PSPO, particularly as it relates to busking and also ‘begging and the seeking of alms’. Our petition specifically asks that busking and ‘begging and the seeking of alms’ be removed from the draft PSPO though we have concerns about the overall scope of the PSPO.

We share with Liberty concerns about the lack of supporting evidence used to support the proposed introduction of this PSPO which they have made publicly available in this letter:

For the purposes of this online consultation we will be responding to specific parts of the proposed PSPO:

‘Busking only within areas designated by Havering Council’

The police and council already have ample powers to address issues of nuisance, obstruction or antisocial behaviour as they relate to busking making this clause unnecessary. The problem with this clause is that it would make it a criminal offence to busk outside designated areas, even if the busking was not causing any nuisance or obstruction. Busking in public spaces is a long standing British cultural tradition, and, provided that no obstruction is being caused on the highway and no nuisance is being caused, is lawful. The Live Music Act 2012 affirms that live music can be played in public places between 8am and 11pm but this proposal would make it a criminal offence to play music except for specific areas in Romford. This is a disproportionate and ‘catch-all’ attempt to address the issues that can sometimes arise from busking. It would also mean that the police and council would be diverting resources to prosecuting buskers for standing in the wrong place, even if they weren’t causing any issues. It would also mean that busking performances would concentrate in specific designated areas which could lead to an increase in complaints from those areas. We are asking Havering Borough Council to adopt a best practise guide for busking such as the one agreed between the local authority, Musician’s Union, Keep Streets Live Campaign and Equity in Liverpool, York, Birmingham, Chester, Canterbury, Worcester and elsewhere ( to the oversight of busking in Romford. The principle of this guidance should be avoiding creating blanket, catch-all offences but concentrating resources on enforcement against those performers who are causing a genuine nuisance. The council and the police have the powers to ban specific individuals and performers from pitches where they have been shown to cause a nuisance. They should target problematic individuals rather than all buskers because otherwise they will be criminalising people and activities that are not causing any harm.

‘No busking with amplified equipment’

Clearly this clause attempts to address the issue of noise nuisance as it relates to busking by creating a catch-all criminal offence of using amplified equipment. Once again, the problem with this clause is that it criminalises all uses of amplification, even those uses which are not causing any noise nuisance without addressing the potential nuisance of unamplified instruments like drums, plastic pots, trumpets, bagpipes or saxophones etc which all have the potential to cause nuisance. Many street musicians use a battery powered amp because they are playing quieter instruments such as guitars and need to be heard just above the ambient street noise for their performances to be effective. The use of microphones enables people to sing or speak more quietly and safeguards singers against vocal damage or trauma. Criminalising the use of amplifiers will mean that many of the most accomplished or professional performers will no longer be able to perform in Romford which will have the effect of making Romford a ‘no-go’ area for buskers. Additionally the proposed blanket ban on amplification risks the criminalisation of residents who use microphones or loudspeakers as part of peaceful protests in the Romford area which is a potential interference of the right to freedom of expression under Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Once We ask Havering Borough Council to drop this clause and to adopt a Best Practise Guide approach to the oversight of busking in Romford with the Musician’s Union, Equity and Keep Streets Live Campaign along the lines already agreed in cities such as Liverpool, Birmingham, York and elsewhere:

Rather than enforcing a general blanket ban on amplification, the police and local authority could target specific performers who have been shown to cause a nuisance. The police and local authority already have the powers needed to confiscate equipment from people causing a nuisance and to ban specific individuals from using amplified equipment. By targeting enforcement against those individuals who are generating complaints the local authority will be able to improve the quality of busking in Romford and address the issue of noise nuisance without criminalising those performers who use amplification considerately and appropriately. We ask that Havering remove this clause from the PSPO

‘No begging or seeking of alms’

Including begging in the PSPO 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, many suffering from complex needs, mental health and addiction issues and are often destitute and are reduced to begging in order to obtain food and shelter. The current proposal would mean that a person sat down, without causing any issues to any other person, could face a criminal record and fine of up to £1000. It is counterproductive to use public resources to impose punitive fines upon people who are very unlikely to be able to pay them and could face further marginalisation and destitution through their interaction with the court system.

The use of the phrase ‘seeking of alms’ is vague and ambiguous as well as being antiquated. It risks creating a new criminal offence without a clear understanding of what that offence entails. For example, does asking someone for food or a hot drink constitute ‘seeking of alms’? If so, are Havering Borough Council proposing to make it a criminal offence for destitute people to seek food and drink?

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. Oxford City Council amended their PSPO proposal to target ‘aggressive begging’. Whilst this is still problematic it has the advantage of targeting a specific behaviour with the potential to cause harm to others in the form of intimidation or harassment and is less open to misuse. We ask that Havering Borough Council remove the clause as it relates to begging and seeking of alms.

No unlicensed street trading or charity solicitation (chugging)’

Rather than a blanket ban on ‘charity solicitation’ the council should adopt a best practise guide which outlines expected behaviour from those working on behalf of charities and target enforcement against those individuals or groups that depart from mutually agreed standards. This clause, as it stands, could criminalise people who are acting in a responsible and considerate way which is problematic.

‘No consumption of alcohol outside of a licenced premises or designated drinking area’

This proposal could be amended to make it an offence not to surrender an alcoholic beverage when asked to by a police officer. In this way the proposal would address the issue of street drinking without criminalising vulnerable people who might be suffering from mental health/addiction problems. The current wording of the proposal means that anybody with an alcoholic drink in a public place in Romford would be committing a criminal offence which could have a damaging impact on vulnerable people.


Stop Swindon Council’s Attack on Street Culture

Stop Swindon Council’s Attack on Street Culture


Swindon’s Public Space Protection Order is an assault on the town’s civic life.

Skateboarding ‘or similar’ in an ‘annoying’ way, drawing pavement art with chalk, playing fetch with a dog without a lead, collecting money for a charity ‘assertively’, even peddling with a valid license could all become a criminal offence punishable by a fine of up to £1000 under proposals tabled by Swindon Borough Council.

Taken together these measures represent a highly heavy handed approach to the oversight of the public spaces in the town, and the unnecessary creation of vague and ambiguous criminal offences so we are constructively opposing this measure. Please take a moment to fill out your own response to this measure, the more people who complete the consultation, the more chance we have of stopping these measures.

This is the Keep Streets Live Campaign response to Swindon Borough Council’s online consultation on whether to create 

Please take the time to complete the consultation via this link:

Feel free to use our responses as a guide

There is also a petition against this measure here:

Swindon Borough Council (referred to hereafter as ‘the authority’) hereby makes the following Public Spaces Protection Order that applies to the public space as referred to within the marked boundary in Appendix One: 

Proposed Restrictions: 

1. Dogs on leads
Any person in charge of a dog, at any time, must keep the dog on a lead unless subject to exemptions listed in Appendix Two below.

KSL response 

It should not be a criminal offence to walk a dog without a lead. Instead dog-owners should be treated as responsible persons capable of making their own judgments about the nature of their dog and its relationship to public safety under existing legislation. This prohibition is unnecessarily wide and has the effect of criminalising harmless activities like playing fetch with a dog in a public place. It will have the presumably unintended effect of turning Swindon’s public spaces into more alienating environments, for dog-owners and non-dog-owners alike.

2. Alcohol
Any person is prohibited from, at any time, consuming alcohol or having an open alcohol container, unless subject to exemptions listed in Appendix Two below. 

KSL response 

    Once again this prohibition is framed too widely and criminalises people unnecessarily, for instance a family having a glass of wine with a picnic, two lovers having a glass of champagne in the park. A discretionary power allowing the police to request that persons surrender their drink upon request would allow the authorities to deal with any antisocial behaviour resulting from alcohol use without the need for authoritarian and catch-all measures.

3. Begging
Any person is prohibited from, at any time, placing himself in a position to receive alms for a continuing period. 

KSL response 

This is a particularly problematic prohibition from an equalities act and Human Rights Act standpoint. Creating a criminal offence that catches the most vulnerable and destitute members of society is punitive and unlikely to be effective. A beggar is unlikely to be able to afford to pay a £100 spot fine and will likely end up in court where they would face a mandatory court charge of £150 before the magistrates even had chance to pass a judgment. It is conceivable that some vulnerable persons might face imprisonment as a consequence of non-payment of court fees and fines. At a time of rising poverty and homelessness a local authority should not be using these discretionary powers to punish the poor and vulnerable. Additionally, these measures would leave Swindon open to a formal legal challenge. Oxford City Council’s proposals to make ‘persistent begging’ the focus of a PSPO proposal resulted in a formal legal challenge from the Human Rights body Liberty and widespread protests: Oxford City Council subsequently adjusted the wording of their proposal to say ‘begging that could reasonably be perceived as aggressive’, which, whilst still highly problematic makes the proposal more proportionate to the potential social harms caused by begging. This measure should be removed from the PSPO.

4.) Peddling/Street Trading
Any person is prohibited from, at any time, peddling/trading goods without the written permission of the authority, even if licensed. 

  KSL response 

The criminalisation of pedlars and street traders under this prohibition, even if they hold a valid license, is punitive and unnecessary and an attack on a legitimate way of making a living. Peddling is a valid and lawful means of making a living in the UK with a history that predates the 1871 Pedlar’s Act. The working of this prohibition is also vague enough to have worrying implications for other users of public spaces such as buskers who might make CDs of their performances available to passerby.

5.) Skateboarding
Any person is prohibited from, at any time, using a skateboard or similar in a way that may damage property or cause nuisance or annoyance.

KSL response 

The wording of this prohibition is vague and open ended:  ‘Any person is prohibited from, at any time, using a skateboard or similar in a way that may damage property or cause nuisance or annoyance’

This means that a skateboarder could face a criminal record and fines of up to £1000 for causing ‘annoyance’ to someone. What definition of ‘annoyance’ is being used? What, indeed, is ‘similar’ in relation to a skateboard? A bicycle? A tricycle? A zimmer frame? A scooter?

This is an unnecessary and punitive measure that will have a disproportionate impact on young people for whom skateboarding is a hobby and pastime, and creates an unnecessary relationship of antagonism between the local authority and the skateboarding community.

It is also probably unlawful because it creates an unacceptable degree of uncertainty about what behaviour is, and isn’t lawful. For example, is riding a scooter or tricycle in a way that someone finds annoying unlawful under this prohibition?

Existing legislation relating to criminal damage and public order is more than adequate to deal with any concerns about the ‘excesses’ of the skateboarding community.

6.) Marking surfaces/chalking
Any person is prohibited from, at any time, directly marking surfaces such as walls or pavements with paints, chalk or similar without the written permission of the authority.

Street art using chalk that can be washed off by an afternoon of rainfall or a bucket of water should not be a criminal offence. In no way can it meaningfully be said to have a detrimental effect on the local area, in fact, street art, alongside street entertainment is a long established part of any vibrant street culture and should be encouraged and supported by the local authority, not subject to punitive fines and criminalisation.

7.) Aggressive Charity Collection 

Any person is prohibited from, at any time, on land detailed in Appendix One below, engaging in assertive or aggressive (commercial or charity) collection or soliciting of money. 

KSL response

Once again the wording of this prohibition is dangerously vague and open-ended and creates a potentially ambiguous criminal offence of ‘assertive’ charity collection. What objective standard of ‘assertiveness’ or ‘aggressiveness’ is being proposed to evaluate an offence which carries a criminal record and fines of up to £1000?Why is existing public order legislation such as the Public Order Act 1986 which created the offence of causing ‘alarm, harassment or distress’ insufficient to address a situation where there were concerns about the approach of a charity collector? What standard of evidence will be used to establish that this ‘offence’ has occurred?This has been poorly thought through and is most probably unlawful, and would be open to legal challenge.