York street drinking crackdown ‘will criminalise people who need help’
A clampdown on street drinking in York will not help vulnerable people who need support with their addictions, a councillor has said.
Coun Fiona Fitzpatrick said introducing a public space protection order (PSPO) around Union Terrace car park, Union Terrace, Clarence Street and Clarence Gardens was “not the right approach at all”.
The order, which will now go out to consultation, could see a ban on drinking where it is associated with anti-social behaviour and police given the power to move on groups of three or more people who are causing anti-social behaviour.
Coun Fitzpatrick said it could result in criminalising people who need help, as well as simply shifting the problem elsewhere.
The area, where homeless hostel Changing Lives is based, is known as a hotspot for street drinking and anti-social behaviour.
Council community safety manager Paul Morrison said: “We need to recognise because of where this is, there are a large number of visitors that come through, a large number of residents that come through, a lot of people catch buses from that area, and this does have an impact on people’s perception of the city centre as a whole and York generally.”
Coun Fitzpatrick, who has worked as a counsellor for alcohol addiction services, said she felt passionate about the issue as a close family member suffered with an alcohol addiction.
She said: “We’re talking about people who have got illnesses, we’re talking about people with addictions.
“Residents [in the Groves] made it quite clear during a recent meeting that they did not support this option at all as they feel it’s going to push the problem into the streets where they live. They have sympathy with the people who have the addictions .
“It’s not helping in the slightest.”
But the council’s executive member for housing and community safety, Denise Craghill, and council officers stressed that PSPOs were just one tool they could use.
Head of community safety Jane Mowat said: “We are well aware that PSPOs can result in some displacement and that’s why we would never see it as a standalone solution to problems.
“I’m fairly confident that this is part of a much bigger package to look at anti-social behaviour in that particular area of the city.”
Coun Craghill said: “Given the concerns of the residents, it could be a very useful way of being able to move on people who are actually intimidating others.”
But she added: “I absolutely agree that this is not the only approach to us in terms of tackling the issues in this area. But I also believe that we are addressing this in quite a number of different ways.”
A PSPO for alcohol-related anti-social behaviour within the city walls will also now go out for consultation. It would not be an ‘alcohol ban’.