CAMBRIDGE City Council has welcomed a High Court judgement granting an injunction to ban unauthorised punt businesses from using council owned land along the middle river to access the River Cam.
The council’s riverside land, including land at Garret Hostel Lane, is being used by unauthorised punt operators, at locations that are not authorised punt stations and that do not have planning permission or approval from the council or the Cam Conservators.
The council has been clear for many years that it wants the unauthorised use of its land for commercial punting to stop and the injunction application was the most recent attempt to stop it.
The High Court hearing on 9 and 11 May took place amidst an escalation of the use of Garret Hostel Lane, where unauthorised punt businesses have started using a much larger pontoon for embarking and disembarking passengers that is blocking the slipway.
The presence of this unapproved punt station often causes congestion in the narrow lane, which is heavily used by pedestrians and cyclists, putting them and the prospective punt customers at risk of injury.
At peak times, this also causes congestion on the river as punts waiting to embark and disembark passengers have to queue to get access to the pontoon on the slipway.
In a related move last October, councillors approved proposals to tackle nuisance punt tour touts in the city centre by recruiting a new enforcement officer whose role includes strengthening implementation of the existing Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) at peak times of the day and weekends.
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. Some 77 notices have been issued to date with eight prosecutions for repeat offences.
Now that the High Court has granted the injunction, unauthorised use of the council’s land at Garret Hostel Lane, Jesus Green, Thompson’s Lane, Jubilee Gardens, Granta Mill Pond, Quayside, Silver Street and Sheep’s Green for commercial punt activity is prohibited.
Anyone breaching the injunction may be guilty of contempt of court and could face a term of imprisonment, a financial penalty, or both. The council will now enforce the injunction as well as continuing to implement the PSPO.
Cllr Lewis Herbert, Leader of the Council, said: “It is welcome news that the High Court has granted our injunction application because it means we can stop the unauthorised use of our land at Garret Hostel Lane and other open spaces including Jesus Green and Sheep’s Green.
“We recognise the importance of punting to Cambridge and we will continue to support the diverse range of 11 different punt operators from the punt stations approved by the Cam Conservators.
“Our approach to this injunction, and the wider matter of punting, has been about pursuing what is best for Cambridge, including balancing the views of local residents and councillors with congestion, environmental and planning considerations.”
Cllr Herbert added: “These businesses have operated on our land without ever obtaining permission and created problems for pedestrians and cyclists by obstructing the highway. They have created a major antisocial behaviour problem in the historic heart of our city due to their invasive and thoughtless touting.
"We know that nuisance related to the activities of unauthorised punt operator businesses as they seek to attract customers continues and we will keep working to address it.”
The judge, Mrs Justice Whipple, took time to consider the issues following the hearing on 9 and 11 May and the decision could only be made public today. The court order includes a requirement that there is a payment towards the council’s costs in seeking the injunction.