Nottingham

Nottinghamshire rough sleepers threatened with fines

Homeless person sleeping on a bench Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Rushcliffe Borough Council said rough sleepers had been "causing a nuisance" in West Bridgford

Rough sleepers in an affluent suburb have been threatened with £100 fines.

Rushcliffe Borough Council said rough sleepers had been "causing a nuisance" in West Bridgford, a suburb of Nottingham nicknamed Bread and Lard Island because of its large houses.

Campaign group Liberty said the fines were "cruel" and called on the government to scrap powers allowing them.

Rushcliffe Borough Council said the fixed penalties were a "last resort".

If people fail to pay the initial £100 fixed penalty notices they may be prosecuted, with the maximum fine being £1,000.

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Councils in other areas, such as Hackney in London, have backtracked on similar plans following campaigns.

New legal powers

Image copyright Getty Images

Rushcliffe Borough Council is using powers introduced in 2014, called Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs).

The powers mean councils can ban certain activities if they have had "a detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality".

There has been outrage about the plans on social media.

King Timothy Baker wrote on the BBC East Midlands Today Facebook page: "Where are you going to send the fines, a bench, shop doorway, third tree on the left. Talk about rob the poor to fill your pockets."

BBC Radio Nottingham listener Debbie Morley wrote: "This idea of fining the poorest, most vulnerable members of society is shameful!!!"

Paula Senior asked the borough council to be more "understanding" in her post: "No one gives up their family or home without a difficult circumstances/story from their past. They need help, guidance and understanding."

Image copyright Redbrowny
Image caption West Bridgford is a town and suburb to the south of Nottingham and the River Trent

Rosie Brighouse, legal officer for Liberty, said PSPOs are "blunt instruments prone to misuse".

"A cruel trend has developed of councils using these powers against the most vulnerable in society," she said.

"Sleeping rough is not 'anti-social behaviour', and criminalising homelessness does nothing to address its underlying causes.

"The government needs to urgently scrap these dangerously overbroad powers."

Image copyright Google
Image caption Rushcliffe Borough Council said the order is due to come into place in West Bridgford "shortly"

Bosworth MP David Tredinnick compared the Rushcliffe fines to people being forbidden from sleeping under bridges before the French Revolution.

"You can read about that historically, that was one of the causes of the French Revolution," said the Conservative MP.

"Those people sleeping rough have not got £100 to spend on a fine so I think we that needs to be revisited."

The Labour MP for Chesterfield, Toby Perkins, said: "It seems a pretty bad way of trying to deal with the homelessness problem, to fine the people who are victims of that.

"We need to solve the housing crisis, not punish the people who are victims of it."

Bread and Lard Island

Image copyright Getty Images
  • West Bridgford is a town and suburb to the south of Nottingham and the River Trent
  • Residents are perceived as being more affluent than in Nottingham, leading to the nickname Bread and Lard Island due to the belief they spent all of their money on big houses and only ate bread and lard
  • The town is home to the world famous Trent Bridge cricket ground

The Public Spaces Protection Order will be used to control street drinking and rough sleeping across a large area of West Bridgford and a small area of neighbouring Edwalton.

Councillors have approved the plans council said they are due to come into force "shortly".

Image copyright Rushcliffe Borough Council / Ordnance Survey
Image caption The PSPO will be used to control street drinking and rough sleeping across a large area of West Bridgford and a small area of neighbouring Edwalton

David Banks, executive manager for neighbourhoods, said the order was being brought in "to help tackle anti-social behaviours associated with street drinking and rough sleeping which have been causing a nuisance in public spaces in West Bridgford".

"We would always try to support homeless people to move to suitable accommodation because the council takes a proactive approach to homelessness," he said.

"The £100 fixed penalty notice is a last resort and would only be given out to people who have refused support and assistance from the council and relevant charities, and don't comply with the authorised officer's request to stop the unacceptable behaviour."

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