Richmondshire District Council is introducing a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) to safeguard a riverside area from ASB. A multi-agency task group is overseeing this work, which has involved extensive consultation with people who live and work in the town.
The local context
Richmond is a vibrant market town in North Yorkshire. Local beauty spots include the Falls and Batts area, a series of waterfalls and a park on the River Swale which is popular with local people and visitors. In 2020, growing reports of ASB led to Richmond District Council and its partners taking action to protect this area.
In good weather, large groups would meet for parties and gatherings at the Falls. This led to ASB including significant littering, disruption through alcohol and drug consumption, lighting of barbecues and fires, intimidation and verbal abuse, all of which prevented other people from enjoying the area.
Complaints escalated during the spring of 2020, culminating in significant problems on the two bank holiday weekends in May. The main culprits came from outside the area so it was not easy to identify those involved, but the behaviour had a significant detrimental effect on local residents. A multi-agency task group was formed including councillors and officers from Richmondshire District Council, representatives from North Yorkshire Police and councillors from North Yorkshire County Council, to consider short-term and longer-term solutions.
The task group agreed on immediate action to prevent large gatherings at the Falls, bringing in stewards to marshal the area at peak times and an increased police presence. Access by large groups and anyone carrying alcohol was restricted. At the same time, community warden patrols of the park were increased to take more action against littering and other ASB.
The council launched social media campaigns to warn young people of the dangers of alcohol and drugs and to share information on water safety. Extra CCTV cameras were installed at the Falls, and the district and county councils worked together on options for enhanced parking enforcement.
As a longer-term solution the task group considered the creation of a PSPO for the Falls and Batts area, seeing this a useful tool that could be tailored to this locality, allowing the council and police to target ASB offences. It would be enforceable through £100 fixed penalty notices issued by designated council officers, police officers and PCSOs.
In July, councillors sanctioned extra spending on more security patrols at the Falls (the whole package of measures is expected to cost the district council up to £11,000 per year). They also gave the go-ahead to public consultation on the PSPO plans. Councillor Helen Grant, Deputy Leader of Richmondshire District Council, said at the time: “There is no longer an option to do nothing.”
Impact and outcomes
The first big test came on the August bank holiday weekend, when the joint action plan included road and car park closures, stewarding at key access points and traffic enforcement. Drugs and alcohol were banned from the area, while a digital display van featured the ‘Visit Richmondshire Safely’ campaign. There was very positive feedback from residents and visitors, who said they felt safer and better able to enjoy the area as a result of these measures.
Public consultation on the PSPO ran for just over a month and was publicised via social and print media; 570 responses were received, 65 per cent of them from local residents. There was widespread public support: 86 per cent said a PSPO would have a positive impact for people living and working here. Based on the consultation feedback, the council believed there was a strong case to create a PSPO.
The PSPO was approved by the corporate board in January 2021 and was due to come into effect in April, following the statutory notice and consultation period. It will initially last for three years, and will prevent:
- behaving in a way, including by congregating in a group, that causes or is likely to cause harassment, obstruction or concern for safety to another person in a public place
- threatening and/or abusing people within the restricted area
- continuing to consume alcohol when required to stop doing so by any authorised officer
- being under the influence of controlled drugs or other psychoactive substance
- throwing objects which are liable to cause damage, nuisance, or injury to any person, animal or structure
- lighting or being in control of a fire or barbecue
- littering and the irresponsible depositing of waste.
Jo Butler, Community Safety Coordinator, said a PSPO was a good option for this area: “It gives a clear expectation that ASB is not welcomed or acceptable, and will help to achieve peaceful enjoyment for all. We did not define a specific age group in any of the restrictions as we wanted everyone, including young people, not to feel alienated by them but to be able to meet up safely.”
It is essential to secure and maintain a positive joint working approach, with the district council responsible for lower-level restrictions and police colleagues dealing with more problematic anti-social breaches using the ‘4E’ approach: engage, explain, encourage and enforcement.
Richmondshire will support the PSPO with targeted interventions which will enable all key partners to work well together. This could include additional traffic enforcement, road closures where feasible and use of private sector stewards, with a rota of council officers to supervise them and act as the link to police colleagues.
- Effective community engagement and consultation is essential to ensure there is sufficient evidence to justify the restrictions being imposed, and that the action won’t have a detrimental effect on vulnerable people.
- Positive engagement and support from local police is key: they have been essential in terms of gathering the required evidence for fixed penalty notices.
- As this is a specific ‘beauty spot’ location it is not anticipated that the problem behaviour will be displaced to other locations.