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Order banning street drinking in three areas of Cambridge to end in favour of ‘empathetic approach’

A new ‘empathetic approach’ to help people street drinking and prevent anti-social behaviour is planned by Cambridge City Council.

The authority has agreed to remove orders prohibiting street drinking in certain areas, to focus instead on speaking to people and helping them access support.

An order to prevent problems caused by street drinking was put in place in 2016 in three areas of Cambridge
An order to prevent problems caused by street drinking was put in place in 2016 in three areas of Cambridge

Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) was put in place at Mill Road Cemetery, Petersfield Green, and the front garden at Ditchburn Place in 2016, by the council after complaints about anti-social drinking.

The orders prohibited drinking alcohol or having an open container of alcohol within the area covered.

The PSPO is due to lapse on May 31, 2023, but the council has decided to discharge the orders, due to low reports of anti-social drinking – only two were received in 2022.

A report to the environment and community scrutiny committee last Thursday (March 23) said the new approach will involve a “proactive and preventative council presence” through weekly patrols, as well as making sure there is better engagement with street drinkers to help them access support services.

The council created a new street life support officer role last year, and the officer has begun to speak with people who cause anti-social behaviour, including street drinkers, helping to link them to support services.

Cllr Cameron Holloway (Lab, Newnham) said it was the “right approach” as it is likely that those behaving in an anti-social way, potentially through drink, will have “underlying reasons for that behaviour that may include mental health issues for example.”

He added: “There may be other reasons and so it is important that we recognise that and then take an emphatic approach to actually trying to help them with those issues.

“Some people might think ‘oh well that is all very well and good saying that, but actually they are causing issues for me or for my neighbours’, which is also perhaps true.

“However, even if you do not care about trying to help these individuals because you think well, they are causing a nuisance, if you want this to work then generally punitive approaches do not work, because in the longer-term you are not going to solve the underlying issues.

“An approach where we have got an officer who is engaging on a regular basis with the individuals who are behaving in an anti-social way, should hopefully be a much more effective way of actually getting to work through some of those issues, helping these people and in the long-term making Cambridge a safer place for everyone.”

Cllr Matthew Howard (Green, Abbey) supported removing the PSPO, and asked about engagement with those street drinking.

A council officer said some patrols had started and a support officer had discussed the council’s plans with two individuals Petersfield Green.

The committee unanimously agreed to support the discharge of the PSPO and to focus on the new support approach.

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