Case Studies

Summer PSPOs

by Mark Rowe

We regularly give updates of the latest Public Space Protection Orders (PSPO) in England and Wales. As they’ve been going for several years, some orders are simply renewed (usually every three years). Many cover nuisances such as dog fouling and littering (including ‘legal high’ paraphernalia). But one growing trend is of PSPOs to reflect heatwaves and anti-social or hazardous behaviour that could cause wildfires.

Barnsley Council is proposing a ‘peat moorlands’ PSPO. That would prevent people using disposable barbecues, fires, fireworks and sky lanterns on moorland in Barnsley to help prevent wildfires. A consultation is running from August 1 until October 2.

The order would cover all publicly-accessible moorland areas in the borough (if private landowners agreed). The aim; to reduce the risk of wildfires around the town. Barbecues, fires and fireworks, and all have the potential to cause fires and at particular risk of fire are the peat moorlands. The South Yorkshire region has seen such fires, the council points out; which adds that healthy peatlands absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and helps keep that carbon stored within the ground. Unhealthy, damaged peatlands emit carbon dioxide; hence the wish to protect peatlands with the aim of a net-zero carbon borough, quite apart from the cost of the 999 services fighting wildfires, and the impact on air quality for miles.

The PSPO would mean that anyone lighting a fire, fireworks or disposable barbecue in publicly-accessible moorland areas would be committing a criminal offence. This PSPO like others could be enforced by police and others authorised, whether council or contracted personnel. A breach is a criminal offence which can be discharged via fixed penalty notice (£100) or up to £1,000 fine if prosecuted.

Barnsley councillor Robert Frost, Cabinet spokesperson for regeneration and culture, said: “We all have a part to play in protecting the green spaces in our borough for future generations and helping Barnsley to meet its aspirations to become net zero by 2045.”

By the coast, Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council has a new Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) covering the coastline and other visitor areas around Southport.

Mark Shaw, Sefton’s Green Sefton Service Manager, said: “We want people to have fun and enjoy their time on our beaches this summer, but we ask in return that they behave responsibly and with consideration to each other, local residents, our staff and our beautiful environment.”

Covered by the new PSPO are littering and pollution, fires and BBQs, dog fouling, letting off fireworks, balloons or lanterns, overnight stays in tents, motorhomes or caravans without permission, and anti-social behaviour. Failure to comply can result in a £75 Fixed Penalty Notice. The order will be in place for three years, until summer 2025 and is based on the existing Sefton Byelaws and in line with the protected status of the Sefton coast, the council says. Some offences such as littering are already covered, such as in the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

Southend likewise is consulting in August about a PSPO, to cover disposable BBQs, bonfires and personal watercrafts, such as jet skis, which are only allowed at designated launch sites.

Martin Terry, cabinet member for public protection, said: “Whilst we want people to enjoy their summer in Southend, we want them to do so responsibly and to be mindful of public property and others attending the same spaces. BBQs are a hazard and can pose a risk to the safety of families and other visitors to our beaches when not used and disposed of correctly. This is what this PSPO will help to enforce, with help from the residents it will affect most. For this reason, I urge everyone who enjoys Southend’s shores to take part in this survey.”

Besides hotter summers, the covid pandemic and travel restrictions prompted more use of local open spaces, which did lead to nuisances such as large-scale litter dropping, and noise.

Bournemouth Council, whose CCTV and CSAS (Community Safety Accreditation Scheme) patrollers were featured in the June print edition of Professional Security, in July reported that one morning some 35 tonnes of waste was collected from the council’s seafront bins alone. Over a midsummer weekend the council’s enforcement officers might issue about 1500 parking tickets; and tow trucks do remove vehicles from our streets where illegally parked and causing an obstruction to buses. Besides the obvious seaside visitor spots, cities have also sought to manage more people using parks and open spaces.

In north London, Hackney Council proposes a Wick Woodlands-Hackney Marshes PSPO. It would restrict unlicensed music events; use of nitrous oxide, laughing gas; amplified music or lighting of fires.

The PSPO would cover Hackney Marshes (famous as a home of Sunday grassroots football, with 82 pitches); Daubeney Fields in E9 with views over the Lee Navigation and Hackney Marshes to the east; Mabley Green (a recently landscaped park) and Millfields Park.

From May 2020 to August 2021, Hackney Council received 74 complaints about unauthorised events at these locations. The council suggests that far more unauthorised events happen than the number of formal complaints.

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