A crackdown is coming on traveller camps in parks and public spaces across Brighton and Hove thanks to new legal powers.
Brighton and Hove City Council is to carry out a consultation on the use of “public spaces protection orders”. The orders were created as a way of tackling anti-social behaviour.
Council leader Warren Morgan said: “Brighton and Hove is a tolerant and welcoming city.
“But it is not somewhere people can expect to behave in ways that have a detrimental effect on the quality of life of residents.
“We are looking at piloting these orders for an initial three-month period at sensitive sites, including parks and some areas of the seafront, where anti-social behaviour is known to be an issue.
“The aim would be to assess how practical and effective these orders might be in combating problems and reducing the associated costs of dealing with them.”
A report to the council’s Policy and Resources Committee today (Thursday 9 July) said: “A number of parks, areas of the seafront and privately owned land are frequently occupied by people sleeping in caravans, vehicles or tents.
“The occupation of these areas causes nuisance and annoyance for settled communities.
“In some instances in addition to the occupation of the land there have been reports of damaging land by driving on it, defecating near by, leaving rubbish and criminal damage.
“Settled local communities report that occupation of the land and premises disrupts their ability to utilise that space as they feel intimidated by the presence of groups of people.
“People occupying these locations include ethnically defined gypsies and travellers who tend to use large caravans and towing vehicles, other van dwellers who use a variety of older large vehicles including caravans, people who choose to sleep in tents rather than rough sleep in the city centre and in some instances people camping while visiting Brighton.
“Injunctions, powers under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to move people on and byelaws have been used in the past to manage the occupation of land with varying degrees of success.”
The report said that the purpose of the new public space protection orders was to stop individuals or groups committing anti-social behaviour in a public space, including trespass.
It added: “There are a number sensitive locations in Brighton and Hove where the frequency of occupation or the levels of anti-social behaviour reported are particularly high.
“These locations would benefit most from a PSPO although it should be noted that displacement to other areas is likely to occur.
“Further use of injunctions has been considered. The primary difficulty will be identification of the people involved in that socially excluded groups are sometimes reluctant to provide details which can lead to their identification.
“For instance, in relation to van dwellers most go by nicknames so enforcement via civil jurisdiction is problematic.
“There is also the concern that if an injunction is appealed the land could continue to be occupied.
“There are also concerns that using officers to identify people will place that relationship in difficulties and might put officers and agents at risk.
“Existing measures to manage the occupation of parks and land have had limited success in managing anti-social behaviour associated with the unauthorised occupation of land.
“The trialling of a PSPO in areas that are most impacted by the unauthorised occupation of land would evidence that the council and partners are prepared to test other means of addressing the issue.
“The use of PSPOs in city parks and open spaces is likely to disproportionately impact on some sections of society.
“The equality impact assessment and relevant actions of this pilot will need to be closely monitored.
“The use of this new legislation needs to be proportionate to the harm being caused.”
The report also said: “Councils can issue a PSPO after consultation with the police, the police and crime commissioner and other relevant bodies and communities.”
It said that the orders were designed to target behaviour having a detrimental effect on the quality of life of people near by, that was persistent or continuous and was unreasonable.
The orders were created by a new law – the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.
The P&R Committee agreed to ask the council’s head of community safety, under the direction of the director of public health, to look into the potential offered by the new orders.
And after consultation to give the P&R Committee the chance to decide whether to make use of the new powers.