Our concerns about closing footpaths under controversial measures in the Anti-Social Behaviour Bill were discussed by MPs yesterday.
We're concerned about clauses in the Bill to introduce new Public Space Protection Orders, which will make it easier for authorities in England and Wales to close off public spaces – for up to three years – without properly consulting those that use them.
The Bill is now in its Committee stages in the House of Commons, when MPs from all parties go through the Bill in detail and discuss and – where necessary – vote on controversial clauses.
We raised our concerns with MPs and as a result the Committee discussed in detail our suggested improvements to the Bill.
We were reassured to hear from the Home Office Minister, Damian Green, that he'll consider including additional safeguards to ensure that local authorities only use Public Space Protection Orders to close off footpaths and open spaces as a last resort.
The Minister also offered to ensure that many of our concerns were addressed in the guidance that will accompany the new powers given to local authorities.
“We support Government efforts to tackle anti-social behaviour but this mustn’t come at the expense of sacrificing people’s ability to enjoy public places," said Nicky Philpott, Director of Policy and Campaigns at the Ramblers. "We’re really optimistic with the reassurances that the Minister gave yesterday, but we'll keep working to ensure that places people walk are protected.”
We'll continue lobbying the minister and the Home Office to shape the safeguards and guidance in the Bill. We’ll also be following the Bill as it progresses through the House of Lords.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the Bill you can read our parliamentary briefing or you can watch the full discussions on the Parliament website (skip to an hour into the Committee meeting).