City Council amends its Public Space Protection Order after pressure from Greens

25 April 2017

On Monday 24th April, Newcastle City Council's Cabinet approved a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) for the city.  The Cabinet agenda papers online include both the order and the Green Party response to the previous proposal.  Towards the end of 2016, Greens had distributed leaflets in Heaton about the PSPO, and held a protest in the city centre.

PSPO protest December 2016

Before Monday's meeting, Newcastle Green Party had written to the Cabinet to thank them for making major changes to their original proposals, in response to the campaign initiated by local Green Party member Andrew Gray, with support from Liberty, other national campaign groups and hundreds of petition signatories.  We highlighted the following changes:

  1. Removal of clause 16(iii), which would have criminalised anyone with visible bedding materials.
  2. Change in the restricted area for this section to the city centre only, and ending the 'one size fits all' approach.
  3. Defining begging to target persistent and aggressive begging only, instead of the catch-all approach in previous clause 16(ii).

"These changes represent a significant change in approach," said Andrew Gray after Monday's meeting, "and the Cabinet deserves praise for listening to the hundreds of comments made on the change.org petition, and to the detailed responses from Liberty and ourselves.  Unfortunately, the discussion at the meeting confirmed our fears that the PSPO approach has been chosen to show support for NE1 Ltd, rather than as a sensible or principled response to the complex mix of austerity and addictions that have caused a spike in begging and use of lethal highs within our city.  There was much talk of the PSPO as an additional item in the Council's 'toolkit', but scant explanation of how it could assist the problem in practice."

Our letter to the Council in particular objected to the proposed signage, but recognised the professional way in which officers had managed the consultation and revisions, ending:

"We would add that we do not think that a PSPO is the most effective or appropriate way to deal with the complex issues and addictions that underlie much of the begging or use of lethal highs within our city. Repeated references to a 'graded response' within the report are misleading, as the PSPO and Fixed Penalty Notice is in fact a blunt instrument allowing no flexibility in response. The order, and especially the signage, appears to be driven by the interests of NE1 and city centre retail premises rather than by the needs of our most vulnerable residents. But we recognise that this is your preferred approach, and so thank you for taking on board our and others' concerns."