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Tuesday 21 July 2015

Council’s new powers to clean up anti-social trouble spots


The days are numbered for rowdy, anti-social people who inflict misery on communities in Cheshire East including the use of drugs in public places, legal highs, alcohol abuse, noise nuisance and joy riding.

Cheshire East Council’s communities and enforcement teams are poised to take advantage of new powers to apply Public Space Protection Orders and issue on-the- spot fines to individuals who breach an order.

The new measures, introduced by the Government last year to help local authorities and police to crack down on troublemakers, could be applied in at least five identified areas in the Borough, where residents have repeatedly complained about regular anti-social behaviour.

The Council may also invoke powers to close premises it considers to be the source of public nuisance and disorder, under proposals set to be voted on at a Cabinet meeting next week.

The new powers under the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Police Act 2014 will eliminate the need for court proceedings or civil action and permit Cheshire East to empower its officers to take immediate action.

This could apply to environmental protection officers, trading standards, planning, housing officers and even park rangers.

Police will have the same powers under the Act.

This news will bring relief to long-suffering neighbourhoods where residents have had to put up with car racing in car parks, open drug taking, loud music and intimidating behaviour by gangs.

The Council intends that conciliatory discussion and mediation in some instances may help to avoid the need for tough action.

However, five parts of the Borough have been identified as potential targets for the new Public Spaces Protection Order.

These are in Poynton, Macclesfield, Crewe (2) and Alsager.

The same powers will also enable the Council to tackle the growing public concerns surrounding psychoactive substances, otherwise known as legal highs, both in public open spaces and shops.

Further legislation, currently going through Parliament, will also enable the Council and the police to take action against anyone involved or suspected of being involved in the supply of psychoactive substances.

Cheshire East Council leader Michael Jones said: “These are tough new measures which we intend to enforce robustly on behalf of the decent residents and families of Cheshire East who do not wish to have their lives disturbed day after day by gangs and individuals who have no thought for others.

“But I would stress that there are often young victims as a result of this trend in the use of legal highs and peer pressure from gangs and it is those young people that I want my Council to reach out to -  to help them to lead normal and healthy lives and receive the support they need.”

Cllr Les Gilbert, Cabinet member for communities, said: “We are a ‘residents first’ authority and we believe in doing all within our power to protect our residents from anti-social behaviour and the distress that can cause.

“We are ensuring that we have processes in place to deal with the impacts of legal highs, unwanted and undesirable gang behaviour in public open spaces and all types of anti-social nuisance that affect the quality of life of our residents.”

Cheshire East Council is working closely with Cheshire police and other partners to draw up effective protocols in order to progress a timetable for introducing the new powers at the earliest opportunity.

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