The Anti-social Behaviour Crime and Policing Bill, which will give local authorities new powers to close paths and other public spaces to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour, is now making its way through the House of Lords.
The powers will replace the controversial ‘gating orders’ introduced by the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005. While they should mean that local authorities can target anti-social behaviour, for example by banning certain types of behaviour, the restrictions on public access can however be applied to wider areas.
We have serious concerns that these new laws will replicate the problems seen with gating orders because they don’t offer local communities the chance to have their objections to paths closures heard by an independent inspector. With gating orders this meant paths in everyday use were being closed.
Although five amendments we made to the Bill were tabled and discussed when the Bill was in the House of Commons, none were taken up by the Government and, as yet, the draft guidance for local authorities which will sit alongside the new laws doesn’t, in our view, offer any further protection for paths.
We’ve already made some comments about the guidance and we’re continuing to discuss it with Home Office officials. Lord Greaves has tabled a number of amendments to the Bill, which take forward our concerns that the interests of walkers and local communities are still under threat. These will be debated in the coming weeks.
You can follow the Bill’s progress by on the Parliament website. You can also see what Ramblers Senior Policy Officer Janet Davis had to say about the Bill in The Independent and The Telegraph.