The introduction of what is believed to be the UK's first ever buffer zone to stop anti-abortion protesters from gathering outside an abortion clinic has come a step closer.
A cabinet of Ealing council unanimously voted to begin a public consultation on whether introducing a public space protection order may be the most appropriate measure to stop such demonstrations outside a Marie Stopes clinic in the west London borough.
In calling for a safe zone, councillor Binda Rai told the meeting that the protests were forcing vulnerable women seeking a legal treatment to face "emotional hijacking at the point of access" which is clearly not covered by legislation.
Ms Rai, who represents the Walpole ward which includes the clinic, said:
The earliest that the eight-week public consultation could begin is January 29.
A council spokesman said a decision on whether or not to implement a PSPO will only be made once the consultation process has been completed and it is known whether or not the statutory criteria are met, including whether a PSPO will be a necessary and proportionate response to the issues that have been identified.
Marie Stopes UK managing director Richard Bentley noted that "a number of local authorities" are keeping a close eye on what is happening in Ealing while others including Birmingham and Portsmouth are "actively exploring" how to increase protection for women in their areas.