A petition has been published on the UK Parliament website calling for the review and reform of Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs). The petition states:
We believe that local authorities are unfairly implementing Public Space Protections Orders that adversely impact dog owners, cyclists, bikers and others, without adequate consultation or consideration of the impact of these orders. The Government should review reform the rules for creating PSPOs, so the intention of an order has to be set out clearly in the consultation survey, consultations must have a minimum response within a certain time period, and evidence must be produced to support the PSPO. Members of the public should be able to appeal against a PSPO within the first three months of implementation without the need to bring a legal challenge. Any existing PSPOs that do not meet this standard should be rescinded.
This petition makes the important point that PSPOs are at present subject to only minimal procedural requirements. At present the ‘necessary consultation’, stated in law, means that local authorities must consult the local police, and ‘whatever community representatives the local authority thinks it appropriate to consult’. Therefore, there is no requirement for any public consultation, no standards for consultation, and no requirement for the PSPO to be passed through democratic or scrutiny procedures within the council. We found that in one year, nearly half of all councils passed a PSPO through a single council officer or pair of officers. Several councils have brought through PSPOs without any public notice or consultation. Some consultations have received fewer than 10 responses.
It is also the case that many PSPOs have been passed without substantial evidence to show the ‘detrimental effect’ that has supposedly taken place. Oxford passed a PSPO banning spending too much time in toilets, yet only 6% of the public had said in the consultation that they were ‘affected’ by this issue.
Finally, there are real problems with the legal appeal systems established for PSPOs. The need to appeal PSPOs in the High Court takes appeal out of the hands of all but the richest individuals or organisations. There have only been a handful of appeal cases, and legal costs ran into tens of thousands of pounds. The petition is correct that there needs to be a tribunal or other form of appeal that does not require a High Court legal challenge, in order to allow appeal by members of the public and subject this power to some kind of public accountability.