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Kent councils issue 114 fines under Public Space Protection Orders

By Phil Hayes

More than 100 fines were issued in Kent for breaching council bans which include swearing, shouting and cycling.

Others were hit with penalties of up to £100 for urinating in a public place, drinking alcohol or fishing from “undesignated swims”.

The 114 fines in Kent in 2018 were enforced under Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPO), which local authorities can use to prohibit a range of activities.

Canterbury City Council can stop issue an order is someone who refuses to stop busking
Canterbury City Council can stop issue an order is someone who refuses to stop busking

Ashford Borough Council issued PSPOs on ball games and “car stunts”, between August 2017 and January 2019.

Meanwhile Canterbury City Council’s orders cover persistent begging, refusal to stop busking, shouting and swearing when alcohol is involved – and "climbing on to any council building".

The figures were obtained through a Freedom of Information request by The Manifesto Club, which campaigns against “the hyper-regulation of public spaces”.

Dover District Council dished out more fines than any other Kent council for which data is available.

Penalties of up to £100 can be issued for drinking alcohol in public
Penalties of up to £100 can be issued for drinking alcohol in public

The local authority issued 45 penalties for an order covering “dogs on leads; dog exclusion”.

In Canterbury, six people were fined for swearing or shouting in a public place and 12 were sanctioned for urinating in public. Others were fined for having a dog off the lead, consuming alcohol in a public place and “defacing a surface”.

Spokesman for the council, Leo Whitlock, said: "Our PSPOs are designed to help us tackle low-level anti-social behaviour that affects the quality of life for those living, working and studying in the city.

"They also help us to present the district's best face to the thousands of people who visit and put money into the tills of local businesses who then create hundreds of jobs.

12 people were fined for urinating in public in Canterbury
12 people were fined for urinating in public in Canterbury

"The PSPOs in force in the district help our enforcement officers to take action in cases of nuisance drinking, shouting or swearing in the street, urinating or defecating in a public place, graffiti, flyposting and tombstoning.

"They also cover dog fouling, dogs on the beach and dogs in children's playgrounds.

"We really wish we didn't need these powers but they help us tackle the small minority of people whose behaviour spoil things for everyone else."

Gravesham Borough Council issued 37 penalties for cycling, according to the data. Thanet issued four fines for dog fouling.

Dartford Borough Council has issued PSPOs covering motor racing, intoxicating substances, swearing or shouting and alcohol confiscation. The authority issued one fine for “drinking alcohol”.

"I get very dismayed when I hear about them being applied to other situations that could be addressed with a bit of common sense and compassion..." Cllr Jeremy Kite

Leader of the council, Jeremy Kite said: "We use PSPO powers sparingly and to address very particular issues that cause alarm and upset to a community. In Dartford’s case, they apply to things like the misuse of alcohol in the vicinity of the War Memorial which can greatly upset people seeking quiet reflection.

"As we do with most things, Dartford takes a very common-sense approach to the use of these powers. There’s a very real danger than Councils can use them too widely and too frequently and I get very dismayed when I hear about them being applied to other situations that could be addressed with a bit of common sense and compassion.

"But we do reserve the right to use them when people are obviously causing distress to others."

Ashford issued six fines over fishing in undesignated swims and one for foul and abusive language.

Thanet issued four fines for dog fouling
Thanet issued four fines for dog fouling

Tunbridge Wells has orders on “amplified noise” in the town centre, begging, rough sleeping "associated with anti-social behaviour", psychoactive substances, alcohol and dog control – but issued no fines.

Nor did Swale Borough Council, which has PSPOs covering alcohol consumption and a gating order.

The Manifesto Club says there has been a 420% increase in fines since 2016, when there were only 1,906 issued in England and Wales, compared to 9,930 in 2018.

A Local Government Association spokesman said: "PSPOs are one of a number of ways councils can tackle anti-social behaviour problem.

"We really wish we didn't need these powers but they help us tackle the small minority of people whose behaviour spoil things for everyone else..." Leo Whitlock, Canterbury City Council

"PSPOs will not be suitable or effective in all circumstances, and councils will consider other approaches which may better resolve the anti-social behaviour identified."

A Home Office spokesman said: "We are clear PSPOs should be used proportionately to tackle anti-social behaviour."

Councils covering Medway, Sevenoaks and Tonbridge and Malling have no PSPOs, according to the findings.

The report did not include data for Folkestone and Hythe or Maidstone.

Councils have been contacted for comment.

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