Category Archives: Communities

Council scraps £100 fines for begging

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A local authority has given up trying to fine people £100 for begging after realising that the tactic doesn’t work very well, rather unsurprisingly.

Southampton City Council brought in the Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) three years ago – and in that time 32 fixed penalties have been issued of which only one has actually been paid.

Conceding defeat, the council said: ‘Few of these fixed penalties were paid and they did little to change the behaviour of these individuals.’

However, an outfit that represents business types called Go! Southampton is demanding the PSPOs remain, as the problem is apparently getting worse and ‘professional beggars’ are operating ‘on a rota basis’.

In a letter to the council, GO! Southampton said: ‘PSPO is one of the few tools we have to combat the proliferation of beggars. Over the last 12 months, 60% of our businesses have reported that antisocial behaviour issues associated with begging have impacted their business.’

But according to the council, the likes of police action and community protection notices have been more effective.

Community wellbeing councillor Dave Shields said: ‘It’s not working and we would rather focus on the things that will work.’

Social housing ‘attracts drugs and other illegal activities’ leaflet claims

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An interesting leaflet has appeared in a corner of Kent in relation to a proposed social housing development.

The missive’s alarmed authors challenge residents to take a stance against the 60-flat scheme in Gravesend, and claim that ‘social housing traditionally attracts drugs and other illegal activities’.

Signed ‘Your local parish council’, the leaflet urges readers to ‘please act now!’ and asks if they want ‘unsavoury characters walking past your homes and into your neighbourhood and schools’.

The leaflet – which is entirely in uppercase, perhaps demonstrating the fury/fear/urgency the writers feel – also claims that the development risks a ‘devaluation of your property’ and a ‘rise in crime as residents will be rehoused from London and surrounding suburbs bringing with them gangs and knife crime’.

Additionally, the flyer warns that the 60 new builds will bring 200+ cars with them, which is about 3.33 cars per home – a ‘stat’ I didn’t know about social housing tenants, or perhaps the authors based the figure on projected drug dealing proceeds?

According to Gravesham Borough Council’s planning portal, the development Lodge Valley Drive comprises the ‘Demolition of existing house and outbuildings and erection of a part four storey and part three storey building for the residential development of 20no. one bedroom, 41no. two bedroom and 3no. three bedroom apartments with associated car parking’.

Though credited to the parish council, the word on Twitter is that it’s not, thankfully, their work – and I couldn’t get through when I tried to ring them so that’ll have to do for the time being.

 

Empty British shops to become community hubs, says government

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A number of British towns will soon see empty shops turned into ‘vibrant community hubs’ – if a new government scheme comes off.

Revealed by serial announcer and communities secretary James Brokenshire, the Open Doors project encourages landlords to allow their vacant outlets to be transformed by community group into public spaces, making them ‘fit for purpose’.

And as there seem to be almost as many empty shops as occupied ones in most of the high streets I’ve walked down recently, we could end up with quite a lot of community hubs.

According to the government, it will ‘work to match public and private landlords with community groups offering vital services from well-being classes to business support sessions and mentoring for social enterprises’.

A partnership between the government and the Meanwhile Foundation, Open Doors will apparently ‘help tackle social problems linked to declining high streets such as crime, unemployment and loneliness’.

And where can we expect to see some of these things? Well, not in too many places so far: the confirmed locations are Stoke-on-Trent, Bradford, Rochford, Sloug, and Kettering, which is one of the high streets I walk down quite regularly and I can tell you they have a lot of empty shops to choose from.

MP Brokenshire said: ‘Our high streets are the beating heart of the places we call home and make a real difference to the wellbeing of our communities.

‘This pilot is a great way to tackle some of the challenges faced by landlords and communities. It will support groups across the country and demonstrate the potential ‘meanwhile use’ of unused spaces.’

And where would we be without a quote from high streets minister Jake Berry? He was born for stories like this. He said: ‘The Open Doors Scheme encourages us to be more creative when tackling the social and economic challenges faced by our communities.

‘This pilot is just a glimpse of what we can do to revamp vacant properties on our high streets, boost more community hubs and create more spaces for people to work, live and shop.’