Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill

Written evidence from The Motoring Organisations’ Land Access & Recreation Association (LARA) (ASB 56)

Summary

1. This submission expresses our concern that public spaces protection orders will have a serious and unreasonable adverse effect on the public’s use of public roads and public rights of way. We ask that this provision is referred to the Rights of Way Review Committee (chaired by Lord John Lytton) for expert consideration and inputs in order to assist the House in making better legislation.

Submission

2. The Motoring Organisations’ Land Access and Recreation Association (LARA) was founded in 1986 and is a national forum and umbrella organisation for the principal national bodies in motor sport and recreation. Our full and associate member organisations between them have around 2,607 clubs, with 682,300 individual members. LARA’s primary role is to safeguard access to land for competitive events, and the use of the public highway for touring and recreational driving. LARA and its members have an ethos supporting responsible and environmentally sustainable activities, and spend considerable resources in education and information to tackle irresponsible and nuisance motor use.

3. LARA is aware that clauses in this Bill are causing great concern to other organisations involved in countryside access (for example the Ramblers Association, British Horse Society, and the Open Spaces Society) and we support their representations as regards the loss of public spaces and public highways as a consequence of this Bill becoming law as drafted.

4. LARA’s concerns are with regard to the way that public spaces protection orders can affect the rights of the public to use and enjoy public highways of all types. We can understand the need sometimes to ‘gate alleys’ in towns (although we believe that alley-gating is too-often the first choice of some authorities), but the scope of the new powers to close public rights of way and public roads really does worry us.

5. We know from long experience that local authorities will be put under pressure to use public spaces protection orders by people who simply do not like having a public right of way, or public road, on or close by their property. These public spaces protection orders will be used as a form of road closure order without the requirement for the consultations, and policy-led objectivity, that current order processes require.

6. One area of our work over more than 25 years is with regard to ‘cowboy motorcycling’, particularly on public footpaths and bridleways, and in country parks. For a long time the management doctrine was primarily physical exclusion: barriers and fences. But these seldom worked for long, if at all, because those people who are not law-abiding in their general behaviour are not law-abiding as regards signs, barriers, fences and gates.

7. Now it is widely recognised that the best way of pushing out undesirable behaviour is for more ordinary people to use a site for proper, everyday behaviour: the good displaces the bad. Similarly, to their great credit, the cycling organisation SUSTRANS realised that putting up anti-motors barriers on cycle routes simply diminished the character of the place and barred the disabled: getting greater proper use of the routes was the best deterrent against nuisance users. Our people, when out pursuing their activities, often act effectively as ‘eyes and ears’ against criminal and nuisance behaviour.

8. It seems to us to be against this wide experience, futile, and grossly unfair, to bar the law-abiding public from their open spaces, and their public highways, by signs, gates and barriers, as a supposed means of barring nuisance behaviour. To the contrary, encouraging the public to use these sites provides benign policing against nuisance.

9. At the very least, section 60 requires regulations or guidance by the Secretary of State, to be enshrined in the Act itself. For example, in section 60(1)(c), just what is a ‘reasonably convenient alternative route’? Again, our long experience of ‘alternative routes’ for permanent and temporary road closure orders indicates that local authorities cannot safely be left to determine this without at the least robust guidance.

10. In summary, we fear that this provision will not achieve its purpose in the significant reduction of urban nuisance, but that it will certainly allow for unfair and inappropriate closures to public highways and public rights of way.

11. We ask that section 60 is not enacted as drafted, but is instead referred to the Rights of Way Review Committee (chaired by Lord Lytton) for review, with the purpose of recommending safeguards for public access consistent with the purpose of Part 4 of the Bill.

July 2013

Prepared 17th July 2013