Oxford City Council’s proposed Waterways Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) will criminalise everyday activities. The Council are seeking sweeping and non-accountable powers to arbitrarily hand out on-the-spot fines for activities deemed “anti-social”. Examples include (but are not limited to) mooring without prior permission, emitting smoke and noise, and walking more than four dogs at a time. This PSPO is like an ASBO covering Oxford’s waterways and all who use them.
Those who breach the PSPO could be issued with a £100 fixed penalty or a court summons and fine of up to £1,000. These penalties and court summons would not only be issued by the police but also council officers and enforcement powers could even be outsourced.
The proposed PSPO is poorly thought out, short sighted and would be particularly devastating for the residential boating community. Making it a crime to moor in places permitted by historic legislation criminalises legitimate boating activity, and could intimidate boaters into moving when river conditions are unsafe. The PSPO is a broad and heavy-handed approach to deal with specific problems related to a lack of affordable housing and residential moorings in Oxford. Rather than solving these problems, it risks displacing or endangering vulnerable residential boaters. Just having the potential to annoy canal side homeowners about noise or smoke from engines, generators or stoves could lead to fines even if boaters are complying with equivalent national laws – imagine being unable to heat or power your home during winter for fear of receiving a criminal record. By criminalising residential boaters, the PSPO will worsen Oxford’s acknowledged housing crisis, deterring people from one of the last affordable (and sustainable) housing options in the city.
PSPnO opposes these proposals – we should not allow disproportionate measures which criminalise everyday life on our waterways and displace many residential boaters. The PSPO represents an attempt by the Council to move those they consider to be low-value residents out of desirable neighbourhoods. In doing so they will erode the important part Oxford’s waterways and their residents have to play in the city’s cultural heritage. The canal has a rich heritage built over the last 220 years and a positive, vibrant community. Work with PSPnO to stop the cultural cleansing of Oxford’s waterways!