Councils issued a record number of on-the-spot fines last year after banning everything from feeding birds to climbing trees, according to a new report.
An audit found that 13,443 on-the-spot fines were issued in 2022 for breaches of the controversial Public Space Protection Order.
That represents a 30 percent increase from the previous high of 10,413 in 2019, according to the civil liberties group that conducted the study.
The Manifesto Club has warned that local authorities have used powers to ban innocuous activities such as climbing trees, picking stones, gathering on beaches or sleeping in parks in a bid to tackle serious anti-social behaviour.
A total of 303 councils have 2,003 active PSPOs with more than half – 178 – imposing orders against drinking alcohol, while 53 have restrictions on begging and 22 on ‘loitering’.
Councils issued a record number of on-the-spot fines last year after banning everything from feeding birds to climbing trees, according to a new report (file image).
Feeding six prohibited birds under the Act is termed a busybody’s charter
Traditional children’s activities were also curtailed, with the Rugby Council banning tree climbing or kite flying
Local authorities have used powers aimed at tackling serious anti-social behavior to impose restrictions on innocuous activities such as climbing trees, picking stones, gathering on beaches (file image).
Another 11 tried to stop profanity or profanity, eight banned skateboarding and six banned bird feeding under a law known as the Busybodies Charter.
Traditional children’s activities were also curtailed, with Rugby Council banning tree climbing or kite flying and Wiltshire outlawing catapults and stone rights.
In Harrow, north-west London, 44 fines were handed out for feeding pigeons in the town center amid concerns about their droppings. It is proposed to extend the ban at Pinar Memorial Park, where people feed the ducks.
When challenged, council leader Paul Osborne said the bread was ‘probably killing some ducks’ because it might be unsuitable for their diet.
Gateshead, Hillingdon, Dorset, Brent, Havant and Sunderland councils have banned the feeding of pigeons, seagulls and other birds.
Councils in Torfan and Rugby, Warwickshire, in south-east Wales, have also banned activities ‘involving childhood’, according to the Manifesto Club.
Both councils made tree climbing a public order offence, while Rugby even banned the removal of ‘soil, sand, shingle or rock’.
North Somerset issued the most fines – 1,904 – mainly for failure to pick up litter and dog mess but five for swimming.
Josie Appleton, director of the Manifesto Club and author of the report, said: ‘This law is so badly drafted that it has led to a free-for-all for any council officer who wants to ban anything.
‘There are now thousands of tiny restrictions on almost any imaginable activity in public spaces. These powers need to be repealed or drastically reformed before more innocent people are punished and our public spaces become the private spaces of officials.’
Liberal Democrat peer Lord Clement-Jones, who has challenged many of the orders, said: ‘I have raised the issue of PSPO in the House of Lords a number of times but it seems that issues with this power are dying down.
‘The government needs to go back to the drawing board and bring in a properly regulated by-law power that is not open to such abuse.’
A spokesman for the Local Government Association said PSPOs were one of the few mechanisms open to local authorities to tackle anti-social behaviour.
He said: ‘These will not be appropriate or effective in all circumstances and councils will consider other approaches that may better address the issues.
‘Anti-social behaviour, such as public drinking, carjacking, aggressive begging and intimidating behavior can damage people’s quality of life, damage businesses or make people afraid to go out in public.
‘PSPOs are scrutinized by democratically elected councilors and councils must consult community representatives, including the police, before implementing them.’
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