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Councillors to vote on new measures to limit 'chuggers' in Folkestone

By Sean Axtell

New measures to limit the number of charity fundraisers, known as 'chuggers', who operate in Folkestone are set to be approved tonight.

Folkestone and Hythe District Council (FHDC) is expected to introduce a raft of orders to tackle anti-social behaviour, which also include tighter restrictions on rough sleeping, begging and busking.

Proposals for new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPO) received "overwhelming public support" following a recent public consultation, the authority claims.

Foot canvassers in Folkestone town centre
Foot canvassers in Folkestone town centre

PSPOs outlaw certain behaviours and failing to comply can result in a fine or fixed penalty notice.

However, national human rights group Liberty accused the Conservative-led council of "airbrushing the streets".

The measures, set to be rubber-stamped by the council are:

  • Control of alcohol consumption in a public place: Hythe (High Street and Oaklands), Dymchurch and New Romney.
  • No use of intoxicating substances: Folkestone, Hythe, Dymchurch, New Romney, Cheriton, Seabrook, Sandgate.
  • No urinating, spitting or defecating: Folkestone, Hythe, Dymchurch, New Romney, Cheriton and parts of Seabrook and Sandgate.
  • No begging: Already in place in Folkestone, Cheriton, parts of Sandgate and Seabrook, the council proposes to extend the measure to cover Hythe, Dymchurch and New Romney.
  • Deterring inconsiderate buskers: Require buskers and street entertainers to have council permission to perform in certain areas within the district.
  • Deterring inconsiderate chuggers: Limit the number of chuggers in certain areas of the district at any one time and address any inconsiderate behaviour.
  • No unauthorised camping: Making it an offence to sleep in a temporary structure or vehicle in the whole of Folkestone, Hythe, Dymchurch, New Romney, Cheriton and parts of Seabrook and Sandgate.

The scheme’s introduction would make it an offence for anyone to continue acting in an anti-social manner after receiving a warning from a police or council officer, and could carry a maximum £1,000 fine.

Council officer Sarah Robson’s report, due to go before the council's cabinet, added privately hired bailiffs could be used to evict those in vehicles or temporary structures - tents for example.

“Use of Bailiffs or other services for removing unauthorised vehicles/structures should measure 7 come into play, after being issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice and after support (including welfare checks) has been offered.”

Liberty lawyer Rosie Brighouse, who specialises in PSPOs and their affects on homelessness, said the Conservative-led council was "airbrushing the streets".

“The council’s proposed PSPO will punish some of the district’s most vulnerable people and make it impossible for any homeless person seeking shelter from the elements to avoid breaking the law," she told KentOnline.

Liberty lawyer Rosie Brighouse
Liberty lawyer Rosie Brighouse

“Rough sleeping and begging are born of desperation, not criminal intent, but these plans wrongly equate poverty with antisocial behaviour, flying in the face of government guidance.

"These orders can do nothing to alleviate hardship – they can only slap people with fines they can’t possibly afford, pushing them into the criminal justice system.

“This is particularly cruel law-making in one of the most deprived areas in the region - it must be stopped.

The public consultation involving 400 responses revealed "overwhelming public support" according to the council.

Those in favour: Control of alcohol: 90% Ban intoxicating substances: 89% No urinating: 92% No begging: 62% Deterring inconsiderate buskers: 67% Deterring inconsiderate chuggers:: 88% Ban unauthorised camping: 67%.

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