An order aimed at tackling town centre begging, anti-social drinking and nuisance behaviour could be renewed for another three years.

The "public space protection order" (PSPO) order was first granted for Darlington town centre in 2019 and continued until February this year.

People who flout the order face fines of up to £500 or £1,000, or fixed penalty notices of up to £100, if they refuse to stop one of the activities when asked by a council or police officer.

Now Darlington Borough Council is seeking a fresh order for another three years.

It covers anti-social drinking or failing to surrender alcohol in public places, begging and threatening behaviour.

Read more: Almost 100 fines given out for begging because of Darlington's PSPO

During the first PSPO, 95 fixed penalty notices were issued for begging, 14 for alcohol-related nuisance. Fines were said to be used only as a last resort.

A council report said: "The PSPO has been effectively used over the last three years.

"It contributed to making Darlington a more attractive and safer place to live, work and visit.

"However there are still ongoing issues that need to be addressed and the renewal of the PSPO can assist the council, police and partners in dealing with some of these issues."

It says figures for anti-social behaviour in the town centre had lowered since the start of the first PSPO, but started to rise again after Covid restrictions were lifted.

"It is expected town centre footfall will return to previous levels as recovery from the pandemic continues, with an increased focus on events and leisure as town centres continue to adapt and change," states the report.

"It is therefore considered necessary that the police and councils have a range of tools to manage and address anti-social behaviour."

Read more: Man fined for begging in Darlington town centre

The report says begging was significantly reduced with "empathy, engagement, education and enforcement", with fixed penalty notices "against persistent beggars when all other methods of warnings, support and engagement had been exhausted".

It says: "Begging within the town centre has been tackled successfully by partners over recent years, the PSPO being a key part of this.

"A significant amount of good work has taken place over the last three years through the multi-agency begging group to address begging in the town centre providing advice and support to beggars prior to taking any formal action.

"There is a significant amount of support in place for those individuals who unfortunately find themselves homeless and in need of help from a variety of agencies.

"The powers within the PSPO will allow the police and authorised officers of the council to deal with those individuals who beg simply for financial gain and must be noted that enforcement is used as a last resort.

"Youth nuisance remains a concern in relation to groups of young people in the town centre who are disruptive, loud and have lack of respect for members of the public, officers, and business owners.

"Although some good progress has been made across the types of anti-social behaviour, there remains a need for a PSPO renewal to ensure issues continue to be addressed."

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The number of violent crimes remained virtually unchanged since the start of the first PSPO - 489 in 2021 to 2022, compared to 491 in 2018 to 2019.

There were 743 incidents related to alcohol, 382 linked to licensed premises, in the last year, slightly lower than three years ago but still considered high.

The report says: "Any new order will enable the police and other designated officers to deal more effectively with disorder, for example, confiscating alcohol from adults.

"Darlington is a family friendly market town and the PSPO will help preserve and encourage development."

A report will go to cabinet on June 22.


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