New orders to fine anti-social behaviour in city centre, beaches, parks and public spaces across Lancaster and Morecambe
Anti-social behaviour, drunkenness, begging and drug taking in areas of Lancaster, Morecambe and Heysham will be tackled with new public space protection orders.
Willamson Park in Lancaster is included on a list of areas for the new orders, based on information from the police and residents. Orders have existed in some of these locations in the past but the new orders include new powers to tackle people using ‘legal highs’ such as laughing gas.
The new orders cover Lancaster city centre, Morecambe town centre and beaches, Lower Heysham, Morecambe’s Happy Mount Park and Lancaster’s Williamson Park.
Residents, businesses and employees working in Lancaster and Morecambe shops, markets and tourist attractions had said action was needed to ensure the public, shoppers, visitors and beach-users have good experiences and feel safe, and to protect trade.
In addition, alley gates are being considered for some lanes in Morecambe to stop anti-social behaviour and fly-tipping.
The new orders will enable police and police community supporter officers (PCSOs) to hand-out fixed penalty £100 fines on the spot rather than go through longer court procedures.
Lancaster City Council’s cabinet approved the orders when they met on Tuesday evening.
Public feedback was sought earlier this year through a survey across the district and the new orders are said to reflect people’s priorities, a report to the cabinet states.
The online survey included a range of public comments.
One city centre worker said: “I work at Lancaster City Museum which has been a hub of anti-social behaviour for years, Alcohol and drug use plays a major part. I regularly witness and have to deal with this through my work.
“This can involve having to clear up bodily fluids, smashed bottles, litter and used needles. We regularly witness fights, hear foul language and have to deal with cannabis and cigarette smoke coming into the building. This endangers our visitors and ourselves, tarnishes the welcome we wish to give to visitors and loses us business.”
Another said: “I work at Charter Market (street market) in Lancaster. Anti-social behaviour has been a persistent problem for years, causing difficulties for the traders and putting-off customers from visiting the market.
“Traders have had abuse and seen verbal and physical fights between people who are drunk or under the influence of drugs. There have also been thefts and criminal damage to traders’ property, and incidents of rough sleepers urinating behind or on traders’ gazebos.
“Large groups of young people (teenagers, sometimes younger) have been a particular problem in Cheapside. Traders are often reluctant to report these incidents as they feel it is a waste of time.”
Another person said: “I’d like to see a restriction on begging. The city council has a strong homeless support team and Street Aid is established to support those in genuine need. The overwhelming majority of those begging in the city centre are not homeless. Their issues can be exacerbated through access to easy money from the sympathetic public who believe they are helping. The same individuals can be seen begging in city centre doorways for months. They need support to leave the streets instead of access
to easy money to stay.”
Another person wrote: “Lancaster seems to now have a very high percentage of street drinkers, overt drug use and homeless or ‘sofa- surfing’ individuals.
This is a blot on our beautiful, historic city and intimidating for local people and visitors. Some of these people I am pretty sure are not so much homeless but have serious problems with alcohol and drug addiction.”
Another wrote: “Long overdue. The continuing malevolent presence of these people, often mixing with young teenage children, almost always severely intoxicated and begging for cash has cast a shadow over Lancaster city centre. The police seem to have been taking more of an interest recently but it’s merely curtailed some of the activity. As soon as police depart, these people return. Furthermore they’re now waiting in areas like Sun Square and the hidden alleys until the police depart.”
Another person wrote: “Sitting in Market Square eating my lunch on a sunny day should be a peaceful experience. Not blighted by drunks and those under the influence of drugs. Arguing with each other and pestering other people from money or cigarette.”
One person alleged that police support community officers can be too soft in their approach, writing: “I have witnessed a PCSO playing water pistols with the local alcoholics in the market square. Disgraceful.”
Regarding Morecambe beach, one person wrote: ”An overall restriction on alcohol on the beach is unfair to people who intend to consume it sensibly. Consumption of alcohol is legal, whereas other substances are not. Preventing anti-social behaviour is great. However, having a total ban will prove frustrating because people will suffer the consequences of a minority of people ruining a fantastic social spot, where friends and family may want to get together and enjoy a few drinks on the beach.”
Another wrote: “We must have closure of alleyways. Drug dealing has reached horrific proportions. The area of Back Crescent is awful, dealing is taking back behind The Crown Hotel in the road there and the white gated areas next to the Victoria Market, dealing happening in bin area behind homes that are effectively in Skipton Street.”
On Heysham, one person wrote: “I think more police and PCSOs patrolling the areas would be helpful. In the last year along the prom in Heysham and Morecambe, the presence of the Covid officers was welcomed, as was the PCs on bikes.
“However I haven’t seen either of these this summer and I do think a presence would really help, especially with more people out and about. This presence would be extremely welcomed in the woods in Heysham in an evening, as the smell of drugs and noise from large groups of youths can be intense.”
In 2016 and 2018, the city council’s previous cabinets approved Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) covering Lancaster city centre and defined areas in Morecambe and Heysham. These ran for three years and have now ended.
A report for the cabinet meeting said: “Concerns have been raised to the city council and the police by businesses in both Lancaster and Morecambe Business Improvement District areas, and the public to issues of ongoing anti-social behaviour issues. As part of the process for making new public space orders, an on-line survey for public consultation was held between June and October 2021. Over 300 responses were received.
“Over 90 per cent of respondents stated that they have been affected by anti-social behaviour across the district, with Lancaster and Morecambe being identified as the main locations. A smaller number of respondents identified other locations across the district. Over 230 people stated that the anti-social behaviour had taken place on the street, 105 in a park and 29 on a beach. Alcohol and youth related anti-social behaviour were the top categories identified with litter, drug related anti-social behaviour and fly-tipping also being highlighted. The survey said 296 respondents said that this had affected them – with 45 per cent stating that it had affected them a lot.”
The report adds: “Based on the analysis from the police over the past two years, the wards with the highest number of recorded anti-social behaviour incidents were Castle, Poulton, Harbour, Westgate and Bulk with over 1,000 incidents recorded.
“A number of repeat locations were identified in the proposed areas for the PSPO orders. This was also identified in the public consultation. The survey was also consistent with the police analysis in the types of anti-social behaviour witnessed by the public, with alcohol-related and youth incidents being the top two categories. Police analysis also supports the proposal to extend the area of the Lancaster order to cover Williamson Park.”
The new orders will give extra powers to deal with shouting, swearing and behaviour causing annoyance, harassment, alarm, or distress; also target people ingesting, injecting, smoking or otherwise an intoxicating substance and stop alcohol consumption. Over 90 per cent of survey respondents supported these restrictions.
The second condition about intoxicating substances was not on the original public space protection orders and has been recommended to provide authorised officers from the council and the police powers to deal with people under the influence of ‘legal highs’. One of the more easily identified legal highs used in the district is nitrous oxide (laughing gas). due to the discarded cannisters.
Regarding enforcement of the new orders, Lancaster City Council officers and the police will issue fixed penalties but collection of fines and any potential prosecutions will be the responsibility of the city council. A £100 penalty will be reduced to £65 for early payment.
The cabinet report also highlighted potential risks or disadvantages to the new orders. It stated: “Some members of the community could view the proposed restrictions in public parks as unnecessary. Smaller communities may feel that their views have not been taken into consideration. The orders could potentially lead displacement of these types of behaviour to other public spaces.”
However, overall, it said the majority of the public would support the orders in these areas.