A order to curb anti-social drinking, begging and nuisance "sensitively" and "non-aggressively" has been extended in Darlington town centre.

The second public space protection order (PSPO) was approved by Darlington Borough Council leaders at their cabinet meeting on Wednesday afternoon.

The new three-year order covers anti-social drinking or failing to surrender alcohol in public places, begging and threatening behaviour.

People who breach it 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.

Read more: New order sought to curb begging and drinking in Darlington

Councillor Mike Renton, cabinet member for stronger communities, said: "I don't think anyone can look at this data and argue it's not the right thing to do.

"The town has many jewels in its crown, from Head of Steam to the Hippodrome. The town centre... is the central hub of everything that's great about this town.

"For that reason we need to take extra care and attention in order to keep it safe for everyone.

The Northern Echo: Cllr Mike Renton. Picture: Northern Echo.Cllr Mike Renton. Picture: Northern Echo.

"The public space protection order adds another level of non-aggressive intervention to dealing with disruptive behaviour, on a levels that helps us to avoid criminalisation of the perpetrator, which is what as a town we ultimately want to avoid.

"It also helps us to free up police resources by giving our own council the ability and tools they need to deal with disruptive behaviour as it's taking place."

He said the first PSPO, which started in 2019, had been successful with staff trained to use it "as sensitively as possible".

Read more: PSPOs could be introduced at beauty spots in Teesdale in County Durham

Council leader Cllr Jonathan Dulston said: "We're doing a whole host of things in community safety so I'm pleased we've got PSPO as another tool in the council's toolbox to make sure that the town centre remains vibrant and firmly open for business."

The Northern Echo: Cllr Jonathan Dulston. Picture: Sarah Caldecott.Cllr Jonathan Dulston. Picture: Sarah Caldecott.

Cllr Anne-Marie Curry praised the 700 Club, an organisation which supports the scheme's renewal.

She said: "They are a key partnership for the council to work with people with drug, alcohol and homelessness.

"I think they're absolutely key to understanding some of the people that may cause nuisances and how to deal with them."

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

Cllr Stephen Harker said it was "crystal clear" that fixed penalty notices (FPNs) were a last resort, with a raft of organisations behind the scheme to help.

He said: "It's quite clear over the last few years that officers have dealt sensibly with people that have been found to be begging. That's absolutely right."

He referred to a spike in FPNs for begging in 2021 to 2022: "There were 81 FPNs issued for begging and as I understand it a significant proportion of those were issued to a single person."

Cllr Renton said: "I think it was to do with four individuals who just continued their activiity in terms of begging and they have been offered as much support as we can give to them but they continued to do that.

"We're looking at other ways we can address those individuals."

Cllr Dulston added: "Where they see repeat offenders they are looking at other courses of action.

"We've had particular individuals who are now progressing to a different route because it's not appropriate to continue to issue FPN on top of FPN.

"The legal team are all over that space at the moment and continue to make sure we apply it in an appropriate manner and, when that's not having the positive desired outcome, then we'll look to option B."


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