A public spaces protection order is made by a Local Authority if satisfied on reasonable grounds that two conditions are met. Firstly, that
(i) activities carried on in a public place within the authority’s area have had a detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality; and
(ii) it is likely that activities will be carried on in a public place within that area and that they will have such an effect.
The second condition is that the effect, or likely effect, of the activities is, or is likely to be of a persistent or continuing nature, such as to make the activities unreasonable, and therefore justifies the restrictions imposed by the notice.
A public spaces protection order is an order that identifies the public place and prohibits specified things being done in the restricted area and/or requires specified things to be done by persons carrying on specified activities in that area. The order may not have effect for more than 3 years and the Local Authority must consult with the chief officer of the police and the local policing body before issuing the order.
Failure to comply with a public spaces protection order is an offence.
The Public Spaces Protection Order can be used to stop a group from using a public square as a skateboard park and at the same time discourage drunken anti-social behaviour in the same place by making it an offence not to hand over containers of alcohol when asked to do so. It can also be used to prevent dogs fouling a public park or being taken into a children’s play area within that park.
Our Original Analysis when it became Law
This power replaces the Designated Public Place Order, Gating Orders, and Dog Control Orders and so should make things more streamlined and therefore more effective, especially as it can now be used more widely than previous legislation permitted. Previously a Local Authority could not issue an order such as this without having it signed off by the Secretary of State. Now it can be done at a local level, and Local Authorities and Local Police need to work together to achieve improved quality of life in public spaces, not just to issue an order but to ensure compliance with it.
In practice, the issue of PSPOs has often been contentious because Councils have chosen to use it to ban things like rough sleeping, foul and abusive language, and busking. There are calls for improved guidance on how the consultations are undertaken before a public spaces protection order is implemented.
The Local Government Association has produced some useful guidance on effective implementation of PSPOs here.