Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill

Written evidence from The Institute of Public Rights of Way and Access Management (ASB 50)

1. The Institute of Public Rights of Way and Access Management is the professional body which represents individuals involved in the management of public rights of way and other access in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, principally as local government officers.

2. IPROW is a respected and influential voice for access professionals, consulted by government and representing members on national and local bodies concerned with rights of way and access policy. It aims to raise standards of management, encourage the exchange of ideas and information in public rights of way and access management, and foster communication and co-operation between related bodies.

3. Public Rights of Way Officers are employed by county councils and unitary authorities to undertake the highway authorities’ statutory duty to assert and protect public rights of access. That function arises from the law relating to minor highways and public open space and to the important benefits of rights of way to all for health and wellbeing. Crime and anti-social behaviour affect public rights of way in both rural and urban areas and open space such as commons or village greens. They are dealt with on a frequent basis by Officers.

4. The following clauses in the draft bill are of concern:

5. Clauses 55 and 73 allow orders to be made to prevent behaviour "likely to" occur. It is impossible for an Authority to approach something so nebulous as "likely to" objectively. Officers are frequently contacted by owners who perceive that the mere presence of a person near their property is going give rise to crime without any evidence.  The present regime at least requires evidence of actual crime, which it is possible to monitor and quantify.

6. It is difficult to maintain balance when compromise is required between public and private rights (public right of way vs property owner) and an authority has to demonstrate consideration of all parties. It must be able to demonstrate reasonableness in its actions; the clause as drafted potentially creates a situation where that would not be possible because "likely to" is not quantifiable.

7. Clause 67 appears to permit a district authority to close a right of way without consulting the highway authority and could require the highway authority to enforce against the district council.

8. In two tier counties, responsibility for crime and anti-social behaviour reduction may lie with the district or borough council and the duty to assert and protect public rights of way or common land may lie with the highway authority (county council). The highway authority has a wider remit, taking into account strategic access and public rights of way as a network. It is also aware of pending applications or evidence of unrecorded rights.

9. This position should not arise in a unitary authority which has responsibility for both asserting the public right of access and for crime so can act in a unified manner having taken a holistic view of the situation.

10. The clause should be revised so that a highway authority has to be consulted and has power of veto so that conflict between legislation is not introduced.

11. Clause 68 (3) is unclear; it appears to mean that existing gating orders will have to be reviewed and re-made as PSPO after three years.  This will be a resource issue and the public benefit is questionable, especially for orders made very recently.

July 2013

Prepared 17th July 2013