Public space protection orders (PSPOs) which were controversially introduced last year in several parks and public spaces in Brighton and Hove have been ‘a success’ according to a council review.
But campaigners from Love Activists Brighton did not agree, and criticised the ‘aggressive’ approach of the council.
The orders prohibit occupying any vehicle, caravan, tent or other structure in a public area and were criticised for targeting rough sleepers and gypsies and travellers. Those breaching the order can incur a fine of £75 and face prosecution.
Demonstrations were held in Brighton last year to protest the enforcement of PSPOs including a homeless camp on the grounds of St Peter’s Church.
Critics believe PSPOs criminalise homelessness and the gypsy and traveller communities.
Josh Scott, a member of direct action group Love Activists Brighton, said: “As demonstrated by the eviction of a homeless camp in 2017, the PSPOs can and will be used against the street community to stop them sleeping in public parks.
“Although we understand the need to keep parks protected from antisocial behaviour we feel that this order by the council is an aggressive approach to a situation that has been caused by strenuous cuts to public funding and rent rising at an unaffordable rate.
“The housing first model and the living rent campaign are examples of strategies we believe would not only tackle the issue of sleeping in public parks, but would fight the problem at its source.”
According to a council report on PSPOs, no fixed penalty notices have been issued in Brighton and Hove to date, however many verbal warnings and 123 warning letters were issued between April and September 2017, which has largely led to compliance with the orders.
PSPOs are in place along the seafront from Black Rock to Hove Lagoon and in 11 parks and open spaces across Brighton and Hove.
Statistics from Shelter UK show Brighton ranks 20th in the country for its homeless population, with one in 69 residents of the city classed as homeless.
In December the Home Office issued revised guidance stating: “PSPOs should not be used to target people based solely on the fact that someone is homeless or rough sleeping, as this in itself is unlikely to mean that such behaviour is having an unreasonably detrimental effect on the community’s quality of life which justifies the restrictions imposed.”
The neighbourhoods, inclusion, communities and equalities committee is due to discuss the council’s report into the effectiveness of PSPOs on Monday.
Councillor Emma Daniel, chairman of the committee, said: “These powers were introduced to help us ensure residents could use parks and open spaces having had significant complaints about anti-social behaviour and these orders are making a positive difference.
“It was never about fining people or taking court action for the sake it, the fact that the order is in place can be a deterrent in itself.
“Where there are breaches of the order, each case is looked at individually, and warning letters have proved effective in quickly resolving problems.
“It is one of many tools we can use to ensure that the city is a good place to live for everybody.”
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