A ban on begging, on-street drinking and rough sleeping in Banbury town centre could be introduced following a council decision last week.
Councillors on Cherwell District Council’s executive have agreed to hold a five-week consultation on introducing a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO).
The draft order would ban begging, alcohol consumption and rough sleeping within agreed town boundaries in a bid to tackle rising complaints from local traders and shoppers visiting the area.
Banbury town centre currently has a Designated Public Place Order in place which can tackle some situations but many feel it is insufficient to deal with a rising problem.
Cllr Tony Ilott, Cherwell’s lead member for public protection, said: “The council and police have received a growing number of complaints from people who have reported feeling intimidated by people drinking in the town or under pressure to give money to them. This order aims to address both of those issues to ensure people feel safe and happy to visit all parts of the town without fear of being threatened or exploited.
“People in Banbury are known for their generosity in trying to help the homeless but unfortunately in making individual donations they have had their kindness manipulated by some con artists who are travelling into the town from elsewhere and posing as rough sleepers to earn easy money.
“As a result, the perception of homelessness in Banbury is much higher than the reality. This order will force the bogus beggars and antisocial behaviour out of the area to enable us to identify those in need of genuine support while reclaiming the town centre for its rightful purposes.”
In the 19 months between July 2014 and February 2016, Thames Valley Police received 56 reports of begging and 57 complaints of antisocial behaviour and drinking. There has also been an increase in the number of drug needles found in including around St Mary’s Church, People’s Park and People’s Church.
The proposed PSPO area would include all of the town centre, stretching from Cherwell Drive and Castle Quay canalside to the north, to Gatteridge Street and Britannia Road to the south. The boundary would reach as far as Bridge Street Park to the east and People’s Park to the west.
Anyone who breaches the order could receive a fixed penalty notice of £100, a fine of up to £1,000 on conviction or £500 upon conviction for consuming alcohol in breach of the order. The order, can be enforced by a police officer, a (PCSO) or designated council officers .