There are high hopes that Kettering’s ‘draconian’ skateboarding ban will be dropped this summer after councillors agreed a controversial order needed changing.
The now-defunct Kettering Borough Council became the first authority in England to ban skateboarding under a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) in 2016, despite a petition with more than 3,000 signatures and a row which led to one Conservative quitting.
Just stepping foot on a skateboard in the Market Place or Morrisons car park can be punished by a £100 fixed penalty notice, or a prosecution and criminal record if it’s not paid.
Six years on – and with nobody penalised for skateboarding – the order expires on July 21 and a consultation on its renewal has been launched by North Northamptonshire Council (NNC). But Kettering Town Council – whose leader sits on NNC’s executive committee – recently unanimously agreed that it would request that particular behaviours be banned instead of whole activities.
It paves the way for the PSPO, which also prohibits street drinking and begging, to be amended to banning misusing wheeled transport in a way that could damage public property rather than simply banning all skateboarding.
Cllr Clark Mitchell first stood to be a councillor in 2015 because he was outraged by the ban when it was proposed. He was part of a revived campaign last year to have it removed and was ecstatic at the town council’s agreement.
The Labour councillor, who spent much of his youth skateboarding, said: "It’s been a long time thing for me to get skateboarding off the PSPO. It’s not a crime and it shouldn’t be treated as one.
"Banning skateboarding specifically is discrimination against a group of people, especially when you then allow people to whizz around on scooters (the VOI trial).
"I think the decision is going to be officer-led so I’m hopeful the ban will be removed.”
Skateboarding, which made its Olympic debut last year, is the only wheeled sport to suffer from a blanket ban which was branded ‘crazy’ and ‘draconian’ and likened to ‘taking an AK-47 to stamp on a walnut’.
The ban only applies to bikes, scooters and other wheeled conveyances when they are being used in a manner that causes, or is likely to cause, nuisance, alarm or distress.
Travis Clayton owns Illicit Skate Shop at The Yards shopping complex and has had to remind people not to ride their skateboard when they leave because they could get in trouble.
He said: “More and more people are coming to our shop from outside Kettering and it’s almost embarrassing to tell them they can’t skateboard down the road.
"We all want the town to thrive and making it more welcoming would do that.”
The ban is supported by Kettering’s civic society, who claimed skateboarders could damage the ‘fabric of the town’ and make those walking feel uneasy.
A North Northamptonshire Council spokesman said: “A major part of creating a new PSPO and renewing an existing one is consulting people on what they think should be included and not included.
“The views of the town council, local retailers and businesses and the public of Kettering are really important to help with that.”
You can have your say by visiting https://northnorthants.citizenspace.com/pspo/kettering-town-centre-pspo-review/. The consultation closes on June 24.