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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Sunderland city leaders to discuss tackling ASB such as anti-social gatherings in cars and associated dangerous driving at meeting

City leaders to look at new powers to clamp down on anti-social behaviour

New council powers to tackle anti-social gatherings in cars and associated dangerous driving, speeding and noise, will be discussed by city leaders next week.

Sunderland City Council’s cabinet of senior councillors will look at proposals to renew the council’s citywide Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO).

The proposals aim to strengthen the council’s ability to tackle a range of anti-social behaviour across the city by extending the order for the next three years.

First introduced in the city centre in 2017 and extended citywide in 2019, the PSPO gives the council enforcement powers around alcohol control, dog control and prohibiting certain behaviour in public spaces.

Under the current PSPO, the council has the power to give a £100 fixed penalty notice to anyone who doesn’t comply with measures covered by the order.

If this is not paid within 14 days, court action can be taken which could result in a fine of up to £1,000.

New measures proposed as part of the PSPO renewal would allow the council to ban activities linked with ‘car cruising’, which the council states can put people and properties at risk.

Problem activities can range from speeding, racing and performing stunts, to sounding horns, playing loud music, using foul or abusive language and/or threatening or intimidating behaviour, and causing obstructions.

The renewal follows an online consultation exercise which, according to council documents, received 174 responses and majority support for new PSPO proposals.

Cllr Claire Rowntree, deputy leader of the Sunderland City Council. Image: Sunderland Labour

Councillor Claire Rowntree, deputy leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “We know the impact that anti-social behaviour can have on our communities and that it remains a top priority for our residents.

“So, this is about listening to our residents’ concerns and tackling the issues that matter to them most.

“Residents have told us that they want to see action to clamp down on issues like large anti-social car gatherings in our parks and communities which can make their lives a misery.

“It’s not just about the noise and disturbance caused by car horns and loud music, but the very real risk of injury to other road users and pedestrians from cars racing, speeding and performing stunts.

“Very often they also result in damage to the land where they’re held, including some of our parks”.

In addition to a crackdown on car cruising, tougher new enforcement powers being considered by the city council’s cabinet include measures to:

  • Ban smoking and vaping in designated play areas.
  • Extend the £100 fixed penalty notice for anyone taking a shopping trolley from designated retail areas and dumping it in residential areas (extended from parts of Washington to citywide).
  • Require dog walkers to reduce the length of a lead, to make sure the dog is under control and at heel when requested by an authorised officer (the council states this would make it easier for officers to deal with dog owners who behave irresponsibly).
  • Ban the use of motorised bikes or scooters in a manner that would “cause damage to property or cause annoyance to other people in the area”.
  • Require people to provide their personal details, including their name, address and date of birth to an authorised officer upon request.

Cllr Rowntree, the local authority’s cabinet member for Green Clean City, added: “We hope these new powers, if approved, will send out a strong message that we are not prepared to tolerate anti-social behaviour in our city.”

If supported by Sunderland City Council’s cabinet next week, the new powers will join those covered by the current PSPO.

This includes measures to tackle people drinking alcohol in a public place, causing or likely to cause anti-social behaviour, the use of psychoactive substances in a public place and restrictions on unauthorised street events on adopted highways.

Other restricted activities include anti-social use of skateboards, bicycles and stunt bicycles, feeding of gulls and pigeons, waste on land, ‘bin raking’, urinating and defecating in public places, and spitting and discarding chewing gum.

The order also covers the exclusion of dogs from play areas, sport pitches, resort areas and a requirement for dogs to be placed on leads when requested to do so by an authorised officer, and for dog walkers to be able to produce a suitable means of picking up after their dog.

A council cabinet report states PSPOs are intended to “limit and restrict activities which cause nuisance or lead to problems for a community”.

It was noted that the only alternative option to renewing the measures on Wearside would be “not to have a PSPO for the city from May, 2024, onwards”.

The cabinet report adds: “The council would therefore weaken its ability to tackle anti-social behaviour, protect the community and respond to a range of issues which residents have stated are important to them”.

The city council’s cabinet will consider the PSPO report when it next meets on Thursday, 14 March, 2024.

The meeting starts at 10am at City Hall and will be open to the public.

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