Joint Doncaster town centre action plan agreed

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A robust joint action plan targeting anti-social behaviour in the town centre has been agreed to ensure that Doncaster town centre remains a good place to visit and do business.

The issues of begging, rough sleeping, substance abuse including the use of the drug Spice, are to be tackled jointly with businesses and communities who are based in the town centre with the improved support of South Yorkshire Police, Doncaster Council, St Leger Homes and others.

Joint agency work to deal with such anti-social behaviour and activity has been underway since last autumn with the introduction of a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) which has seen people fined and excluded from the town centre. This has operated alongside joint agency work to support people into accommodation and support for addictions, mental health and other issues – aiming to get to the root of the challenge. However more work needs to be done since a spike in homelessness nationally which has impacted on the town as well as changes to social support that have seen more people struggle and become vulnerable.

Working together with key members of the Doncaster Business Forum, South Yorkshire Police, Doncaster Council, St Leger Homes and other agencies, a range of actions is to get off the ground over the summer.

These include:

  • Better co-ordinated patrols of police and community neighbourhood teams to deal with drug dealing and anti-social behaviour
  • Co-ordinated work to support people into accommodation and support for addictions and mental health and related issues
  • Smarter communications between the agencies and businesses to deal with issues quicker and based upon information businesses can offer directly
  • A campaign to discourage town centre visitors from giving to those who are begging as it could feed addictions and get in the hands of drug dealers who need to be stopped
  • Making some places in the town centre that attract anti-social behaviour brighter with better lighting to discourage people from congregating
  • Relooking at how the town centre seating and spaces are configured so as not to be a magnet for anti-social activity and taking down market stands at the end of market days to remove ready-made spaces
  • More clean ups and cleansing runs to make areas more attractive and reduce litter and other debris
  • Enhancing the current programme of town centre events that encourage people into the town centre and let businesses know what’s coming up so they can support
  • Collaborating with businesses in the run up to Christmas to boost footfall
  • Continuing to work with the courts and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) on sentencing for criminal activity and the support that is given to people who are released from prison with the probation service
  • Working with business owners on making the town centre more visually attractive and removing red tape to make things happen.

Jackie Bailey, chair of the Doncaster Business Forum, said: “It is vital that the town centre increases vibrancy and business needs the support and understanding of the council, police and partners to what is causing difficulty to business owners.  A number of key issues highlighted by individual businesses were the completion of different improvements – such as the market which has been left in a state of almost disrepair for two years with a large often empty space in the centre causing hardship for business owners and market stall holders alike.  The removal or repositioning of seating to prevent gatherings for anti- social behaviour which impacts on business owners’ customers and the effective support and tackling of vulnerable people and those that are choosing to beg in Doncaster as a means to gaining sufficient funds for drugs.”

Chief Superintendent Shaun Morley, South Yorkshire Police, said: “We are absolutely committed to tackling these issues as it’s a very visible affront on the town and affects us all. We’re working closely with the council to develop powers which allow us to take some action against those involved in drug use particularly Spice.

“In recent weeks officers have processed 42 breaches of the PSPO prohibitions currently in place and dispersed 30 people from the town centre, 16 of which were then prosecuted for breach of PSPO dispersal notices issued.”

Mayor Ros Jones said co-ordinated action with everyone who has a stake in the town centre was one of the options to make changes for the better.

“I’ve heard what people – community and businesses – have to say about the issues in the town centre and they have been listened to and always will be listened to,” she said.

“The nature of the town centre is changing. Our investment plans are about diversifying the offer in the town and enabling it to flourish and thrive. We all know that town centres face the real challenge of online shopping and we need to get more people to come into town and support local businesses. We know we need to tackle aggressive begging and drug taking and anti-social behaviour so people are not discouraged from coming into the town centre. I know this is an issue in other towns and cities too. I want us to be proud of our borough. We will ensure we achieve this by taking action together.”

Dan Fell, chief executive of Doncaster Chamber, added: “In a recent poll conducted by the Chamber and Doncaster Council, 93% of respondents stated that they believed Doncaster was a good or fair place to do business.  Despite this, and the significant developments that we have seen in our economy over the last decade, Doncaster’s town centre still faces many deep seated challenges that a range of partner organisations and businesses need to work together to address.

“Town centre businesses are rightly distressed by anti-social behaviour as, in many cases, it is beginning to threaten the very viability of their enterprises and livelihoods; the chamber therefore welcomes the commitment from South Yorkshire Police and the council to re-double efforts in this area and to tackle the root causes behind it.  We need robust debate and actions on these issues but it is incumbent on all stakeholders – including the public, businesses and media – to talk about these issues responsibly and for us also to remember that our town centre has some fantastic assets which we can talk up and promote.

“The recent Culture Crawl – organised by the private sector with support from the council – shows just what an animated and welcoming place our town centre can be; we therefore welcome the aspiration to deliver more events of this nature in tandem with the aspiration to ramp up a holistic plan to tackle anti-social behaviour and its causes.”

There are plans well underway to develop the town centre with the urban masterplan including redevelopment of the former wool market in spring 2019, the changes to the station forecourt the following year and the creation of a University Technical College (UTC) where the next generation of scientists, engineers and mathematicians will be taught – just some of the skyline changing developments that will take place in the town centre in the next few years.

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