COUNCILLORS will this evening discuss fresh proposals to tackle nuisance punt tour touts in Cambridge city centre and will receive an update on Cambridge City Council’s High Court injunction too.
A report will be presented to councillors proposing measures to reinforce the public spaces protection order (PSPO) introduced last year in response to complaints about punt tour touts.
This is linked to a court injunction the council has applied for, to end the escalating use of council land by unauthorised punt operators, focusing on Garrett Hostel Lane, public parks and open spaces beside the River Cam.
If councillors approve the proposals the PSPO would continue with a new enforcement officer recruited to strengthen its implementation at peak times of the day and weekends and to pursue the court injunction to a conclusion over the winter months ahead of the main 2018 punting season.
The potential to amend and expand the area covered by the PSPO will be reviewed and more done to raise awareness of the purpose of the order, including publicising successful prosecutions.
The PSPO makes it a criminal offence for punt tour touts to operate in certain areas of Cambridge, with anyone in breach of the order likely to face a £75 fixed penalty notice.
The council’s six enforcement officers, who also have other duties aside from the PSPO, have caught a number of punt tour touts breaching the order.
In the past year 60 fixed penalty notices have been issued of which 54 were paid, two withdrawn and two are ongoing. There were two successful prosecutions for repeat offences and four prosecutions are pending.
However, the report reveals the need for further action to tackle the problem. It says that some punt tour touts are choosing to ignore the PSPO, to pay the fixed penalty notices when they are caught flouting the rules and are willing to risk a criminal record.
It also says that touts have moved beyond the restricted area to others including the train station and that they are using 16-17 year olds touts within the restricted areas.
In a separate move, the council has made an application for a High Court injunction to ban punt businesses from using its land to access the River Cam. Land at Garret Hostel Lane and public open space at Sheep’s Green and Laundress Green is being used without authority or permission by unlicensed punt businesses.
Unlicensed businesses are responsible for much of the indiscriminate punt touting in the city centre. If the injunction is successful it will remove these businesses’ ability to operate and is expected to lead to a significant reduction in the number of touts.
Cllr Lewis Herbert, Leader of the Council, said: “We introduced the order last year to tackle the repeated interference by punt tour touts in the lives of residents and tourists, wandering peacefully through the city centre.
“The order has had some success with a number of offenders fined or prosecuted but the level of complaints is evidence of continued harassment of the public by touts working for unauthorised punt operators, who continue to ignore the harm their operations cause to life in the city.
“In response, the council has already decided that a court injunction is needed to tackle the heart of the problem at its source – that is the occupation without permission of Garrett Hostel Lane and other council land.
“The injunction and further enforcement plans are essential given the evidence in the report of continued anti-social behaviour by punt touts and the escalating use of the public open spaces in the city.
“Our approach is proactive and positive and these proposals, together with our application to the High Court for an injunction to stop the unauthorised use of our land, will tackle a blight on our beautiful city.”
Currently, the PSPO covers most of the city centre except specified touting locations beside the river at Quayside, Silver Street, Trinity College frontage at Garret Hostel Lane, Queens’ Green and the walkway from Quayside to Jesus Green (La Mimosa), provided that certain conditions set out in the order are met.
The council’s enforcement officers, police officers and police community support officers are all able to take action against anyone breaching the order.
The PSPO was introduced after a council consultation showed that a majority of 61% of respondents were in favour of a PSPO to tackle punt tour tout nuisance. The police and Cambridgeshire County Council were both consulted and provided support for the new order.
Councillors will discuss the proposals at Strategy and Resources Committee this evening (9 October). They are also recommended to approve a review of the impact of the increased enforcement and injunction measures next year.