Exclusive: Sheffield City Council proposes Public Space Protection Order
Plus, South Yorkshire recovers from Storm Babet
Good afternoon readers — and welcome to our Monday briefing.
How do we solve anti-social behaviour in our city centre? Fargate, High Street and Castlegate are notorious for street drinking, drug taking, aggressive begging and rough sleeping, but until now a solution has proved elusive. Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) are used in cities such as Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds, but until now Sheffield has resisted the urge to follow suit. Now, The Tribune has learned that Sheffield Council is thinking about imposing one. But would that really solve the problem — or simply create a new one?
As well as that, we have a striking photo from last Friday’s floods, news of another shipping container development in Sheffield city centre, and the chance to listen to the writer of one of The Tribune’s best stories.
Exciting news! Today marks the launch of the newest title in our group — the Birmingham Dispatch. The newsletter will include the same brand of in-depth, nuanced and thoughtful reporting as The Tribune and our titles in Manchester and Liverpool, and will send out its first story on November 1. The launch was covered in the i paper this morning and editor Kate Knowles has written about why she wanted to launch it here. If you know of anyone in Birmingham or the West Midlands who would like to support The Dispatch as a reader, or anyone who wants to become one of its early writers, please tell them to get in touch.
Catch up and coming up
Our unashamedly positive weekend read was all about the Heart of the City development and whether it can bring life back to the city centre. You can still read that piece here.
Last week we sent out two great newsletters to our 1,691 paying members. In the first, I visited Moscar Estate to ask if we should ban grouse moor burning after smoke inundated the city two weeks ago. And in the second, Victoria investigated how appalling the living conditions are for some asylum seekers in Sheffield. An extract from that first piece is below.
Lynne Rawlings and her husband live in High Storrs, a few miles below the Moscar Estate, where one of Monday’s burns had taken place. “The smell was really acrid and I could feel my chest tightening up,” she tells me. In search of fresh air they left their home and drove out to Peak District, west of the fires. When they looked back, they too saw the smoke over the west of the city. “You could see this big, grey billowing cloud of smoke and a pall of it had been blown right across Sheffield,” says Lynne. “You could see it hanging in the air.”
This week we’ll send out two more including a great first-person piece about growing up in the shadow of the Yorkshire Ripper, and another about continuing ructions at the University of Sheffield over pay, conditions and now a major restructure. To help fund a new way of doing journalism in Sheffield based on subscriptions rather than clickbait and endless stories about celebrities, please subscribe using the button below. It costs just £1.34 a week or 23p a day if you pay for 12 months up front (£70).
Editor’s note: Today’s big story about Sheffield City Council’s plan to impose a public space protection order came from good old-fashioned reporting: meeting contacts, getting the claims backed up by a second source and then speaking to expert about how it will affect vulnerable people in Sheffield. Now we have two full-time members of staff, we can spend more time developing sources and finding out what is really going on in Sheffield beyond the press releases. To help support our work financially, please become a member of The Tribune today.
The big picture: After the flood 🌧️
Sheffield was the wettest place in the UK on Friday, with some places recording a massive 100mm of rain in 24 hours. However, while river levels did rise in the city, most of the worst flooding took place downstream in Rotherham. One of the worst affected places in South Yorkshire was the village of Catcliffe, where homes were flooded and cars were destroyed.
This week’s weather 🌦
Our weather forecast comes from dedicated Sheffield weather service Steel City Skies, who say after a fair start, low pressure keeps in good company with the UK with showers and longer spells of rain never too far away.
Monday 🌥 Low pressure sits to the west, with light easterly breezes and bright spells likely to turn hazier later on. Cool throughout with highs of 13°C.
Tuesday ☂ A small low to the east affects with an occlusion which brings outbreaks of rain, most persistent early on. Chilly NW breeze with highs of just 12°C.
Wednesday 🌦 Brighter skies are likely, despite the low pressure outlook, with the risk of thicker cloud and showers too. SW winds not impactful, with 13°C the high.
Thursday 🌦 Overnight rain clears to sunshine and showers, some on the heavy side. Occasionally breezy from the SW, and a little milder with 13-14°C the high.
Friday 🌦 Staying unsettled with further showers possibly merging to longer periods of rain. Brighter skies in between, with moderate SW winds. Highs of 13°C.
Outlook: Unsettled into the weekend, too. Low pressure to the SW gets a little closer, with a clash of the mild, moist airmass to the south and the polar air to the north likely to result in periods of rain or showers ☔️🌦🌈
The big story: Sheffield City Council proposes Public Space Protection Order
Top line: A document seen by The Tribune shows that the city council is considering introducing a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO). But is this the logical next step for a city centre on the up — or bad news for the city’s vulnerable communities?
What are PSPOs? PSPOs were introduced in 2014 by the coalition government. Sometimes known as “ASBOs for spaces”, they can be introduced by a council to ban activities that are deemed to be having a “detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality”, or where it is “likely” that this will happen in future. They cover a designated area, with the idea of targeting problematic “hotspots”.
The language in the legislation allows PSPOs to cover a wide range of behaviours. Elsewhere, PSPOs have been used to ban everything from teenagers being in town at specific times, to feeding pigeons and selling lucky charms. Rotherham town centre’s PSPO prohibits spitting and fundraising activities. The Sheffield council document seen by The Tribune doesn’t spell out what might be included, but refers to requirements to keep dogs on leads, and restrictions on street drinking and substance use. It also lists aggressive begging, public urination, and the use of foul/abusive language as behaviours currently blighting Sheffield’s city centre.
If a PSPO is introduced, those who break the rules could be issued with fines. These can rise as high as £1,000, though a £100 fixed penalty notice is more likely in the first instance. Authorised officers can issue these fines — this might, for example, be brought into the remit of the city centre ambassadors.
The Tribune understands that a majority of Sheffield Labour members are in favour of a PSPO, meaning it’s likely to come forward. Once the order has been made, people have six weeks to lodge an objection with the High Court. However, there has been very limited success in overturning PSPOs, with a low evidence threshold needed to prove that the prohibited behaviour is having a negative impact. According to the charity Legal Action Group: “it is extremely difficult for local residents to prevent or challenge an unwanted PSPO”.
There are also concerns a PSPO would unfairly punish homeless people. Research by Sheffield Hallam University has found that rough sleepers are disproportionately criminalised by PSPOs. Dr Vicky Heap, co-author of the report from Sheffield Hallam University, said that PSPOs “are known to make life more difficult for people experiencing street homelessness who cannot pay the fine and end up in court.”
“Any PSPO would have to recognise some of the aspects of vulnerability within the group of street homeless people”, Tim Renshaw, Chief Executive of the Cathedral Archer Project — a charity that works with those living on the streets — told the Tribune. Renshaw told us it was unrealistic to expect enforcement on its own to get rid of drug use in the city centre, though it could be positive if used as part of an “enforcement-support pathway” that ultimately focuses on helping people out of addiction. He also highlighted that the previous “alcohol restriction zone” (introduced in 2005 but no longer in force) was not deemed to be effective, and for those who are alcohol dependent it is extremely dangerous to just stop drinking.
The council document includes a commitment to “support[ing] vulnerable people with complex needs”, and acknowledges that penalising vulnerable street drinkers could be inappropriate.
As well as concerns for the most vulnerable, others worry that PSPOs undermine our civil liberties. For example, fundamental rights such as freedom of association, freedom of expression, and freedom to protest could potentially be undermined by a PSPO. At this stage we don’t know what might end up in the city’s PSPO, but the ability to introduce a wide range of offences with little room for pushback is inevitably going to be a concern.
The case for a PSPO: The Tribune understands that many in the business community are pushing hard for this measure to be introduced. According to a survey conducted by the council’s Anti-Social Behaviour Team, 97% of businesses in the city centre reported that anti-social behaviour has impacted them. It’s understandable that shop owners who think they’re losing custom want to see stronger measures.
And, as we covered at the weekend, Sheffield is looking to give its city centre a major upgrade. Up until now that’s been focused on the buildings and spaces that let the city down. Some would argue there’s a need to go further, and crack down on those whose behaviour keeps people from visiting. But making the centre more accessible for some, via a PSPO, may make it less hospitable to others.
Our take: A PSPO should only be the last resort, and issuing those on low incomes with fines may well have the knock-on effect of pushing people into debt. While it’s good that the council recognises the need to support the vulnerable, this nuance may be lost in practice. There will also be very little prospect of objecting if a PSPO is brought in. A thorough consultation exercise is needed before any measures come forward.
Do you think Sheffield city centre needs a PSPO? Members can have their say in the comments below.
Home of the week 🏡
This attractive four-bedroom Firth Park terrace is spread over three floors and has a lovely open-plan dining kitchen. It also has great views of the park. It is on the market for £200,000.
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Our media picks 🎧
Conversion therapy ban ditched after ‘intense’ lobbying 🌈 Sheffield MP Miriam Cates has helped scupper a long-awaited ban on conversion therapy, Pink News reports. A law aimed at banning practices which seek to change someone’s sexuality or gender identity has been promised for years, but the ban has now been dropped, at least partly due to Miriam Cates. For our piece on her links with a church accused of practising conversion therapy, click here.
Shipping container park planned between O2 Academy and Odeon cinema 🏗️ The Star report that a shipping container development might be coming back to Sheffield, just a few months after the last one closed. This privately-funded plan would be on Arundel Gate in between the O2 Academy and the Odeon cinema. The company Stack, which has operated successful container parks in Newcastle and Seaham, say it will attract a million people every year.
‘Soft left but not soft’ 🌹 This profile of Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh is a few weeks old but is still well worth a read. Still just 36, the New Statesman says the flame-haired shadow transport secretary has skilfully transcended the party’s factional divides and could be a major figure in the next government — if Labour’s plans to renationalise the railways, bring buses back into public control and build HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail come to fruition.
Things to do 📆
Art 🖼️ On from now until January at the Millennium Gallery is Pioneers, an exhibition all about the art and design ideas of John Ruskin, William Morris and the Bauhaus. The major new free exhibition presents around 100 key works, including a host of significant national and international loans. Together, they illustrate how Ruskin and Morris’ thinking influenced the Bauhaus and explore the school’s important links to the arts and crafts movement.
Books 📚 Back in May we published a wonderful piece about the working-class author Len Doherty. As part of the Off The Shelf festival of words at the Showroom Workstation on Tuesday, 24 October, the writer of that piece Jack Chadwick will explore and rediscover Doherty’s forgotten classic The Good Lion with author Steven Kay, academic Jack Windle and Professor David Forrest. Tickets are priced from £6-7 and the talks starts at 6pm.
Gifts 🎁 On at the Millennium Gallery from now until Christmas (just nine weeks away now — sorry) is Handmade for Christmas, Sheffield Museums’ annual showcase for our region’s best artists, designers and craftspeople. The exhibition features homeware, screen-printed textiles, hand-blown glass, accessories and one-off jewellery. And as well as supporting local talent, everything you buy will also help keep Sheffield Museums’ sites free and open for all.