To seek approval for the development of a new borough wide policy to outline how permission to use Authority owned land can be applied for and to set out the various activities that will be prohibited or restricted on land owned by the Authority.
Cabinet considered a report seeking approval for the development of a new Borough wide Policy to outline how permission to use Authority owned land can be applied for and to set out the various activities that would be prohibited or restricted on land owned by the Authority.
The Authority’s Strategic Property Team had noted a considerable increase in enquiries to use land owned by the Authority for miscellaneous activities. There had also been a correlated rise in Members Enquiries and complaints from members of the public about inappropriate activities taking place in public open spaces such as beaches and parks that are owned by the Authority. An example was the noticeable increase in the use of drones at St Mary’s Lighthouse Nature Reserve, which is part owned by the Authority and classed as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) by Natural England. This increase had caused multiple disturbances and a potential danger to wildlife. Other activities such as balloon and sky lantern releases could be harmful to the environment and can also pose a fire risk.
It was therefore appropriate for the Authority to consider the implementation of a borough wide Policy that would set out how individuals could apply for permission to use Authority owned land where appropriate, and the factors that would be taken into account when assessing such applications, as well as specifying the activities that would not be permitted on Authority owned land.
An officer working group was established in response to a number of activities of concern who were working together to draw up a draft Policy. The service areas represented on the Group, including the Community and Public Space Protection Team, had examples of activities that had been brought to their attention either by Members, or members of the public, in addition to those that officers had observed themselves, which could be considered inappropriate and unacceptable for a number of reasons. Those reasons could include health and safety issues, potential damage to property as well as environmental and wildlife issues. Examples of the activities that would be considered as part of the development of the Policy and that would be consulted on (if considered appropriate) as activities that would either be prohibited or restricted include: -
· Use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or drones on SSSI sites (unless approved by the Authority and Natural England)
· Setting off fireworks/firework displays
· The release of balloons and/or sky lanterns
· Bonfires or firepits
· The riding or racing of quadbikes and/or motorbikes
· Metal detecting
The officer working group would continue to formulate the draft Policy and consult with the Deputy Mayor before it was published and made available for public consultation. The working group, amongst other things, were considering the following principles when shaping the draft policy and considering whether the activities such as those listed above are likely to: -
· Disturb wildlife
· Damage the environment
· Reduce the value of an asset
· Be considered as anti-social or cause a nuisance to the general public
If there was a breach of the proposed Policy, then officers would have regard to the Authority’s Enforcement Policy and Code for Regulators and the circumstances surrounding the breach before enforcement action is considered. Breaches of the Policy could either result in a warning being issued to an individual or enforcement action being taken through the civil courts or potentially through the Magistrates’ Court. In either case, court action would only be taken if it was considered a proportionate step to take and being in the public interest. Enforcement action through the Courts would always be the last resort.
The Authority currently regulated public spaces in the borough using Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs). These were made under a specific legislation featuring a statutory test and currently tackle irresponsible dog ownership and the public consumption of alcohol. The PSPOs must be reviewed every three years and can be extended for a further period of time if that was considered to be appropriate. The required review would commence later this year with draft proposals being considered separately by Cabinet in the early part of 2023 prior to undertaking a statutory consultation process. However, the development of this Policy would inform the review of PSPOs.
Option 1: To agree to the principle of implementing a Policy to control unwelcome activities on Land owned by the Authority, comprising the borough’s parks, beaches and areas of public open space.
Option 2: Not to agree to the principle of implementing a Policy in which case many unwelcome activities may continue to occur on the Authority’s land.
Resolved that (1) the Director of Commissioning and Asset Management, be authorised to take all necessary steps to draft an Acceptable Use of Authority Owned Land Policy taking into account the principles outlined in section 1.5 of the report;
(2) the Director of Commissioning and Asset Management, following consultation with the Deputy Mayor and the Director of Law and Governance, be authorised to publish and undertake public consultation on the draft Acceptable Use of Authority Owned Land Policy;
(3) the Deputy Mayor, in consultation with the Director of Commissioning and Asset
Management and the Director Law and Governance, be authorised to amend and approve the adoption of the Acceptable Use of Authority Owned Land Policy on behalf of the Authority having regard to the consultation responses;
(4) the Director of Commissioning and Asset Management be authorised to publish
(5) the Director of Commissioning and Asset Management, be authorised to
undertake future reviews on the Acceptable Use of Authority Owned Land Policy as appropriate and to make amendments to the Policy, following consultation with the Deputy Mayor and the Director of Law and Governance.
(Reasons for decision: It is considered to be the best way to potentially reduce the number of unwelcome activities that take place on land owned by the Authority, if a subsequent delegated decision is taken to implement a Policy following the period of public consultation.)