Like many local residents, I have been appalled at the anti-social behaviour blighting our town centre. Many report witnessing street drinking, littering, shoplifting, drug dealing and vandalism. Retailers report staff being intimidated, threatened, being verbally abused and physically assaulted. Even low-level anti-social behaviour caused by people congregating together in one place is a nuisance.
The negative impact of this anti-social behaviour (ASB) is concerning; local retailers lose custom causing financial loss and the impact on employees is alarming with assaults both physical and verbal reported. Shoppers are put off browsing our shops as they feel intimidated and can be victims of verbal abuse themselves.
Everyone has the right to live in an environment free from ASB, which comes in many forms including loud, speeding motorcycles, speeding cars, littering, groups hanging about on the streets, inconsiderate behaviour from neighbours and so on. ASB can disrupt and sometimes even destroy the quality of life of individuals and can damage communities as a whole.
ASB affects the standard of living in an area and we cannot allow the behaviour of a few to take away the pleasure and pride we have in our town. If we allow that to happen, it is a slippery slope to residents feeling neglected and powerless. When I talk about my constituency in Parliament, I talk about Beautiful Hastings and Rye because I want the whole country to know what an amazing place we live in and how proud we are of it.
I am concerned that unless we take action against the perpetrators of ASB in our town it will lead to the neglect and degradation of our town centre and surrounding areas. Removing street furniture to discourage people congregating in one area is not taking action against the perpetrators but is taking away amenities for local residents. Lawless behaviour should have serious consequences for the perpetrators, not the victims.
It should be a priority of our local authority to reduce and eliminate ASB in our town to make sure that Hastings is a safe and welcoming town. Hastings Borough Council has a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) in place for the last three years. PSPOs were introduced as part of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 and are primarily aimed at changing and improving behaviour. The PSPO in Hastings created a criminal offence for someone to behave in an anti-social way, drink alcohol or beg in specific locations, the penalty being a fine. Breaches of the PSPO can be enforced by local authority wardens, Police officers or Police Community Support Officers. Hastings Borough Council is the lead agency for prosecuting any breaches of the PSPO.
It is apparent that the PSPO has had limited impact on the ASB causing grave concerns for our local businesses and residents. Taking enforcement action against the perpetrators is not enough; there is a clear need for a consistent approach which looks to address the root causes of ASB and prevention strategies need to be identified. Most of our street community, who are often homeless, at risk of homelessness or living in unstable temporary accommodation, have multiple complex needs and HBC needs to prioritise working with local partners such as Adult Social Care, housing associations and local substance misuse services to look at what kind of ‘wrap around’ care and prevention strategies are needed.
Anti-social behaviour is an absolute blight on our neighbourhoods that enforcement action alone will not solve. Tackling ASB is a key part of delivering a safe, sustainable community, encouraging economic growth and improving the quality of life for our resident