Plans for mass closure of Wellingborough’s Victorian alleyways to shutdown criminals’ escape routes

Cllr Andrew Scarborough says he has major concerns about the plan and wants police to catch the criminals instead of shutting down their getaway routes

Wednesday, 15th July 2020, 10:03 am
Updated Wednesday, 15th July 2020, 10:06 am
The area was built in Victorian times and features many alleyways such as this one in Palk Road. (image Google maps).

A plan by Northamptonshire’s police force to shut down a series of Victorian alleyways in a burglary hotspot has been criticised by a Wellingborough politician.

Northamptonshire Police wants to extend the area of the existing Public Spaces Protection Order currently in force in the town centre and bring in new measures to gate up to 40 Victorian alleyways in streets in the former castle ward. Streets in the area include Palk Road, Knox Road and Winstanley Road.

Police and Crime Commissioner Stephen Mold’s office applied to the Home Office for funding for the gate up from the Safe Streets Fund back in March and will find out this month if the bid has been successful.

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But at last night’s (July 14) discussion of the proposal at the virtual full council Cllr Andrew Scarborough was critical of the proposal.

He said: “My major concern is the wholesale gating of alleyways – or as I would put it as pedestrian routes. The pedestrian routes though Castle ward are an integral part of the design of the estate from when it was built in Victorian times.

They have been public rights of way in most cases for over 100 years. Maintained, supported and lit by Northamptonshire County Council.

“I understand the police want to reduce burglary. May I suggest the best way to do that is to catch the burglars.”

He said a wholesale disruption of safe pedestrian cycle routes struck him as ‘bizarre’ and as an incredibly bad look for the council as well as being a serious detriment to residents. He also said he considered parts of the PSPO where previously non-criminal activities were criminalised as a ‘profoundly illiberal approach’.

A report put to the council’s services committee on June 30 said the Castle ward area of Wellingborough – which has now been redesignated as part of Victoria Ward – ‘suffers from disproportionate household burglary.’

It said: “ The submitted bid aims to implement a suite of physical interventions that are proven to have strong evidence of a positive crime reduction impact. One of these is the gating of alleyways; other interventions include expansion of town centre CCTV and target hardening. If the alley is a designated highway then a PSPO will be required.

“Initial scanning suggests that there are 40 public right of way alleyways within Castle Ward. Police Community Support Officers are scoping the alleys and producing a priority list for gating. Maps/overlays for a number of potential gates have been produced and there are currently two plans: Plan A (closure of nearly all alleyways) and Plan B is more balanced approach that focuses around the backs of the homes only. The exact alleyways proposed to be gated are not yet known and an update will be provided to members once this is established.

The Castle Ward area also suffers from ASB, environmental crime, drug taking/dealing, street drinking, vehicle crime, fly tipping and littering and criminal damage all in the alleyways adjacent to the residential areas.

Other proposed additions to the town centre PSPO include camping on public land and motorcycle nuisance on open spaces.”

The town centre PSPO was introduced in 2018 and will need a review by March 2021. The final decision whether to introduce the gating measures will be made by the council. But it has a duty to publicise and consult on the order first.

A borough wide PSPO regarding dog control, which was first brought in in October 2017, is also up for consultation. Under the new PSPO there will be additional areas where dogs are required to be kept on leads.

The consultation will start in August and run until September.

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