Essex council amends ‘rough sleeping’ law

Chelmsford City Council in Essex has been forced to amend a controversial law that criminalised ‘rough sleeping’ after a petition was launched campaigning against the move.

The Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) was designed to restrict activities the council viewed as having a detrimental impact on residents. The criteria for the PSPO prohibited ‘rough sleeping where it is resulting in anti-social behaviour and an appropriate offer of accommodation has been made’.

However, public outcry at the law prompted a petition from protest group Chelmsford Momentum, which argued that the legislation led to homeless people being victimised. The petition, ‘Homelessness is not a crime’, collected 4,000 signatures.

The criteria of the PSPO has now been altered to drop the clause on ‘rough sleeping’ and change the section on begging to say ‘aggressive begging’.

The leader of Chelmsford City Council, Councillor Roy Whitehead, said: “We sought the views of our residents during a formal consultation period and as a result have amended our proposal.”