The problems that remain with Nottingham’s PSPO

So far as we know, Nottingham City Council last night rubber stamped a PSPO regulating busking, begging, leafleting, and other activities in the city centre.

After fierce opposition and criticism (including from the Manifesto Club, Keep Streets Live and the Musicians’ Union), the council reduced some of the conditions. These changes include –

– A removal of the requirement to gain consent before handing out religious, charitable or political leaflets;

– A removal of the requirement to busk in designated busking sites. Instead, busking is banned in two small areas, including next to the town hall.

Yet significant problems remain with the text (which can be viewed in this document). These include –

– Giving council officers power to ask a busker to stop playing, if in their opinion the busker is causing an ‘unreasonable disturbance’.

– A restriction on distributing ‘free matter’, which campaigners said would prevent people from giving a coffee or sandwich to the homeless. The council said that the law would not be enforced in this manner, and yet there is nothing in the text of the PSPO to prevent this interpretation.

– Preventing unauthorised charity collection, meaning that smaller or local charities would have to go through council red tape before they can appeal for support from fellow residents.

These problems are heightened given the notorious over-officious approach to enforcement taken by the council’s 100-strong ‘environmental protection officers’, who, unusually, are fused closely with the police force, and have taken on additional police powers.

Therefore, it is very important that the enforcement of this PSPO is monitored closely in the months ahead. We will be working with local groups to monitor and protest against the over-use of these powers.