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Councils creating 'bizarre new criminal offences'

A campaign group has criticised a new law which allows councils to ban activities such as begging in public. Credit: PA Wire

A new law which allows councils to ban activities in public spaces is leading to "bizarre new criminal offences", campaigners claim.

Under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act, local authorities can use public spaces protection orders (PSPOs) to ban certain activities.

But the Manifesto Club - which campaigns against heavy regulation - said the Act allowed authorities to "ban pretty much anything" and create a "patchwork of criminal law".

PSPOs have been used to enforce the following new laws:

  • In Colchester, it is now a crime to drive into a retail park after 6pm unless the motorist is using the facilities
  • It is a crime to have an open container of alcohol in Cambridge
  • In Poole, people are banned from begging in certain areas
  • Lincoln City Council has banned the consumption of alcohol and legal highs in public spaces in the city centre
  • Under-21s are banned from entering a tower block in Oxford unless they are a visitor or live there
Motorists in Colchester have been banned from entering a retail park after 6pm unless they are using the facilities. Credit: PA Wire

Another four PSPOs are out for public consultation and 19 are under consideration across the country.

These include potential bans on: amplified music, unlicensed busking, begging, rough sleeping, pigeon feeding, drinking, loitering around cash machines and the sale of lucky charms and heather.

Josie Appleton, director of the Manifesto Club, said: "These orders will turn town and city centres into no-go zones for homeless people, buskers, old ladies feeding pigeons, or anyone else whom the council views as 'messy'.

"It is astonishing that in the 21st century you could be punished for the crime of selling a lucky charm, 'loitering', or failing to leave a retail park within 20 minutes. This looks like a return to the meddling and moralism of 19th-century by-laws."

Street drinking has been banned in some areas as part of the law. Credit: PA Wire

Authorities say the new laws - designed to restrict anti-social behaviour and improve quality of life for residents - appear to be working and were backed by

Colchester said the ban on driving into a retail park after 6pm was necessary to prevent anti-social car meets and nuisance motorists "having a detrimental impact on the quality of life for local residents".

Oxford City Council said it banned people under the age of 21 from entering a tower block because the "unacceptable behaviour of a few has caused a great deal of misery".

Lincoln Council leader Ric Metcalfe said the authority realised action needed to be taken to tackle the problem with street drinking and legal highs.