I remember first hearing about the proposed PSPO in Chester and just feeling sheer disbelief. A PSPO – a what?
Well in this case the PSPO is secondary legislation to criminalise amongst other things rough sleeping, legal highs, bird feeding (seriously?) and unlicensed busking.
Honestly, I still struggle to organise my outrage. But guess what? I’m going to try.
BUT FIRST: The PSPO, if it is made, will follow on from a consultation process by the Cheshire West and Chester Council. If you haven’t filled in the consultation PLEASE DO.
You can find it here: PSPO CONSULTATION
So. Let’s throw in a bit of history. We like our Romans in Chester so try this for starters.
Civilization (or civilisation) comes from the Latin word civis meaning someone who lives in a town. When people are civilised, they live in large well-organized groups like towns, not in small tribes or isolated family groups. (Wikipedia)
It’s not surprising to think that we prosper, peacefully, in a community by our own collective and continuing efforts? Is it?
Have you’ve ever been in the situation where you’re not sure where next month’s rent is coming from? Or been uncertain whether you can afford to travel to work, if you’ve been really ill and glad of your support network? If you’ve ever had any unexpected change of circumstance?
And in the end if you’ve any compassion at all then I can’t see how criminalising rough sleeping serves us as a society. And I do mean all of us.
If we are to live in a town (and I use town and city interchangeably), to use a town, then we are all participants of the life of that town. The process of government should be cooperative, light handed and responsive. Existing legislation holds enough power to deal with any true anti-social behaviour. Secondary legislation becomes a swamp of different ideas, of different groupings getting their opinions and wishes enshrined in law when something less would serve.
If there is a difficulty with the use of legal highs in the city centre then we need to address this as part of the national conversation.
And I’ll re state this. Primary legislation is passed after due process. Due process is there for a reason, because it weighs up action and effect. Yes, it’s slow. Yes, it’s unwieldy. But it’s balanced, it isn’t (at its best) impulsive or lacking in justice. Secondary legislation is okay for small things but the legality or otherwise of one group of highs over another is not a small conversation. It’s a national conversation that we’re really not having and should be.
I’m not even going to grace the bird feeding part with commentary.
Finally. Busking. Anyone who knows me knows I am strong willed and particular in my musical tastes. The same passes for all art in performance. I respect others right to the same. I don’t want anyone choosing what I listen to but me. Licensing is bureaucratic and discouraging to anyone starting out or travelling through. Chester’s lucky to have some of the best buskers either locally or travelling to be here. It’s a great part of what makes Chester great.
There’s a decent code in place in Chester to define who busks where. To prevent or minimise nuisance. It’s guidance but supported by the national legal framework. If need be work on that code; it’s enough.
Ultimately good buskers will get paid and will return. Poor ones will not prosper. Locals know what passes as glorified begging (as opposed to busking) and can choose to give or not.
It’s vitally important that everyone who can take part in the PSPO consultation does so. Here’s the link again: PSPO CONSULTATION
Also there’s this tomorrow if you’d like to join the voices standing against the PSPO. It’s organised by Mark Thomas, comedian and campaigner. It might be one of your last chances to lie down in the city centre? Chester Loitering.
See you in Chester?