Council approves new powers to curb street drinking and begging

Picture: Derek Martin

Picture: Derek Martin

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New powers to crack down on street drinking, begging and camping on public spaces were approved tonight.

Worthing Borough Council hope the ‘public space protection orders’ will crack down on antisocial behaviour issues primarily experienced in the town centre.

The orders were approved by senior councillors despite concerns they could ‘criminalise rough sleepers’ – with more than 5,000 signing a petition against their introduction.

But councillors argued they did not intend to target the homeless.

Worthing Borough Council leader Dan Humphreys said: “I don’t care, frankly, whether they are part of a street community or they are millionaires with money stashed in Panama who went to Eton.

“I do not want them getting drunk, acting in foul ways putting people off in our town, making people like me with young daughters thinking ‘my God, should I be going into Worthing’?

“What we do need to do on behalf of the businesses, the residents of Worthing, is say when people are getting drunk and acting in an appalling way in our town, we say ‘no’ to it, and there should be a resounding message from Worthing Borough Council - and this is it – that you are not doing this in our town.”

Several residents, including members of Worthing People’s Assembly, attended the joint strategic committee meeting at the Shoreham Centre tonight.

Questions ranged from the financial impact of imposing the orders, to querying whether resources would be better spent on longer-term solutions.

Liberal Democrat leader Keith Sunderland said he was concerned about the order targeting ‘all begging’, adding it was ‘criminalising’ the issue.

Council officers said the orders were part of award-winning wider work on tackling antisocial behaviour.

Mr Humphreys said he had taken on board comments of Worthing Churches Homeless Projects chief executive John Holmstrom, who cautioned against the orders.

Mr Holmstrom said it could have ‘damaging, unintended consequences unless planning was very carefully thought through and additional prevention resources identified’.

Speaking after the meeting, Luke Angel, of Worthing People’s Assembly, said: “We felt that our complaint was not heard at all and the voice of over 5,000 people was completely disregarded.

“This will disproportionately affect the homeless community. There is no doubt about that.”

The council approved three orders, commonly known as PSPOs.

The first relates to alcohol consumption. It prohibits people from drinking ‘where their behaviour as a result of consuming alcohol affects the quality of

life of those who live, work or visit the specified area’.

The second prevents begging, sitting or loitering for an ‘unreasonable time’ in the town centre.

The final PSPO prohibits overnight camping in certain areas, including Steyne Gardens, Homefield Park and Goring Greensward.

Cabinet member for health and wellbeing Val Turner said: “We are talking about the street community which is not the same as homeless people.

“Nowhere do we refer to that. It is to do with a small minority of people who are causing a lot of problems.”

Adur District Council declined to impose a separate order on overnight camping in Buckingham Park due to a lack of evidence of its need.