Councillor suggests PSPO could be best way to tackle booze-fuelled problems in Old Leigh

AN order that bans drinking, urinating, begging and drug taking could be the best way to tackle a spike in anti-social behaviour in Old Leigh, a councillor has suggested.

Campaigners have been calling for no-drinking zones to be introduced in the popular tourist spot after an increase in alcohol-fuelled parties and day trippers leaving behind waste.

Councillor Carole Mulroney (LibDem) has suggested the best way to tackle the problem would be to introduce a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) that would allow community safety officers to hand out fines to anyone caught breaking an agreed set of rules within a restricted zone.

This could include council officers having the power to demand people stop drinking, as well as a blanket ban on drug taking, begging, urination, spitting, putting up tents and begging.

A similar PSPO has already been put in place in Southend’s town centre and on the seafront, where on the spot fines of £100 are handed out. This can be escalated to as much as £1,000 if the issue is taken to court.

Cllr Mulroney said she hoped this could be in place along areas in Old Leigh that “are the public realm” which would include the street, wharves and the sea wall. She will also be pushing for it to include the Cinder Path.

She continued: “These are the areas where we have seen large amounts of people walking around with alcohol not just at festival times but any hot summer day.

“This year has been particularly bad due to the huge amounts of litter and disturbance which has been caused to Old Town residents and businesses.

“The ability to bring in their own alcohol, and we know they come in with alcohol laden cars sometimes from long distances, has fuelled this even when the pubs were shut.

“The level of anti-social behaviour has been intolerable, with residents subjected to  public urination, rudeness and general anti-social behaviour.

“The ambience of the Old Town is being ruined.”

She called a petition from residents, which has been signed by more than 1,200 people, the “first step” in getting restrictions introduced.

The use of PSPOs can be highly controversial, particularly when the restrictions risk impacting rough sleepers. Ahead of Southend Council introducing a PSPO on the seafront, they faced heavy opposition from human rights groups like Liberty which feared it could result in the homeless being forced to pay fines they cannot afford to pay.

Sir David Amess, Conservative MP for Southend West, has publicly backed the petition to create restricted zones and said last week “I am doing all I can to assist”.

He described the behaviour witnessed in Old Leigh as “not acceptable”

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter