Council hands out ‘warnings’ to stop anti-social behaviour in High Street
12th September 2019
THE council has been using Community Protection Warning notices [CPWs] to prevent anti-social behaviour around the High Street.
They were issued to stop a number of people from behaving in a way that would ‘cause distress or nuisance, including fighting and excessive noise’.
The notices included a curfew which prohibited them from remaining overnight in the area around the side entrance to Mid Kent Bed Centre in Botany.
This led to one person who had been sleeping rough asking for help to find accommodation and Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council’s (TMBC] Housing Team were able to arrange temporary housing for him.
Residents and businesses had made ‘an increasing number’ of complaints from about people congregating in the town centre in locations occupied by the rough sleeper.
The council received ‘several specific reports of anti-social behaviour such as drinking, fighting and noise disturbances’.
It said: “The council does not tolerate anti-social behaviour and set out to tackle this in a proportionate way with both the rough sleepers and others, whilst maintaining an emphasis on support for the rough sleepers.”
Since the CPWs were enforced, there have been no further reports of groups of people hanging round the area and the council says local businesses ‘are pleased with this outcome’.
It added: “Monitoring of the area will continue to try to avoid reoccurrence of anti-social behaviour.”
There has been a raft of changes in the way the council deals with people living on the street.
It has developed a Rough Sleeper Protocol and established a Task and Finish group to try to ensure that the homeless can access the support that they need.
Task and Finish is made up of the council’s Housing Officers, the police, homeless charity Porchlight and housing groups Look Ahead and Clarion.
The Housing Team and Porchlight’s outreach workers approached rough sleepers in the town over a number of weeks ‘in order to build up a relationship’ with them and help them complete housing applications and other processes.
The local authority received two funding payments from central government this year under its Rough Sleeper Initiative and Rapid Rehousing Pathway scheme, of £100,000 and then a share of further £145,000.
Eleanor Hoyle, TMBC’s Director of Planning, Housing and Environmental Health, said: “The council identified a small number of rough sleepers in Tonbridge town centre in various locations, one of which was on The Botany. Them being rough sleepers was not in itself a nuisance.”
“The Task and Finish Group discusses each individual rough sleeping case and considers the options, usually happens over the period of at least a few months. The group monitors progress on each case through to a conclusion.”
She added that if the CPWs are ineffective, the council issues a formal Community Protection Notice. “Ultimately we can prosecute, which could result in a fine.”
Tunbridge Wells Borough Council brought in Public Space Protection Orders a year ago which allowed them to impose Fixed Penalty Notices, or fines, for people begging or sleeping rough. It has yet to enforce any.
The Chief Executive of The Bridge Trust, Tonbridge’s homeless charity, said he was initially concerned about the CPWs but had been reassured about their effectiveness.
John Handley told the Times: “These Warning notices or Orders are often a source of controversy and are something I was vocally against when they were first proposed by Tunbridge Wells.
“Their wording and indeed their intention seemed to be just a matter of sweeping the problem into someone else’s back yard.
“Furthermore they did not accept that fining someone who had no money was a nonsense!”
But he added: “Over a long consultation period and opposition from many, the council softened their stance by stating that they would only be using them sympathetically and for those who persistently refused to engage with services, and I would agree that is a perfectly reasonable way to work.
“If someone wants to be anti-social and cause a nuisance and consistently refuses the help they are offered then why should the town put up with them?”