Kettering councillors propose review of controversial banning of skateboarding from town centre

The lower floor of Morrisons car park, Kettering NNL-150502-151509001
The lower floor of Morrisons car park, Kettering NNL-150502-151509001

Two Kettering councillors want the prohibition of skateboarding in parts of the town to be looked at again.

Last year a Public Space Protection Order was passed by Kettering Council, becoming the first authority to make skateboarding a low-level criminal offence.

Under the order, skateboarders are not allowed to skate in Morrisons car park, pedestrianised area of the town centre, Market Place and the library steps.

The councillors’ motion would see the executive committee review and fully discuss potential answers to the “anti-social problem” which was given as a main reason for the order being passed.

It is being proposed by Cllr Steve Bellamy (Con, Barton Seagrave) - who resigned from the executive committee last week over his workload, and seconded by Cllr Michael Brown (Con, Brambleside).

Cllr Bellamy feels there is a way around tackling the problem without making it an offence.

He said: “We are requesting that the decision is passed back to the executive to review and reconsider it.

“I feel there is a compromise to be had – there could be a code of conduct instead of it being a criminal offence.

“It could be self-governed and I know those from Chopper Skate Shop would be happy with this.

“People are classing skateboarding as anti-social but it’s not true, and I think that’s what the executive hung their decision on.

“Bad behaviour is associated with it but it’s an Olympic sport and these youngsters are just practising it.

“I think the decision was taken without enough informed knowlege of the consequences it could have and is whole-heartedly wrong.

“We’ve got a lot of support and we’re hoping that the “whip” will be removed – the original decision was like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.”

Cllr Brown says he wants the executive to listen to their electorate.

He said: “This motion proposes that the inclusion of skateboarding in the recently approved PSPO order for Kettering Council be referred back to the executive immediately for further and a more informed debate, with the option to remove the inclusion of skateboarding from the PSPO as passed by the executive in 2015.

“When you’ve got 300 people filling the council chamber, it’s obvious that there is a very large amount of opposition.

“The Conservative manifesto states that we should be supporting local sports but we are doing the contrary and this needs to be adhered to.

“We need to be listening to our electorate and I expect to get a lot of support on this.”

Further concerns over the law have been voiced by The Standing Committee on Youth Justice, which feels that it is ‘unlawful, disproportionate and counter-productive’.

A letter to Kettering Council from the committee reads: “We believe this proposal is unlawful, disproportionate, may contravene children’s human rights and, ultimately, be counter-productive.

“Under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 (section 59(2-3)), a PSPO may only be made if two conditions are met, namely: activities carried out in the area have, or are likely to have, a detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality; and that activity is, or is likely to be, unreasonable, of a persistent or continuing nature, and justifies the restrictions imposed by the PSPO.

“We believe that the proposed PSPO does not meet those conditions.

“In particular, the activity it is said is carried out in the area does not justify the restrictions imposed.

“The experience of ASBOs shows that over-zealous use of anti-social behaviour orders can damage relations between authorities and children, and their parents.

“Though the document setting out the proposal says that PSPOs do not criminalise people, breach of the order is an offence, and a fixed penalty notice will be recorded by the police.

“There is evidence to show that any contact with the criminal justice system increases the chances of a child offending, and this is a danger of the proposed order.”