Bedford Borough Council (BBC) have a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) in place that breaches legislation. Yet not only is the PSPO fraudulently used to take money from Bedford residents and visitors BBC Officers are giving conflicting information regards a “stopping up order”.
In 2018 and 2019 BBC has issued 2,526 Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN) to cyclists breaching the PSPO banning them from the town centre during the day.
Despite this BBC made a loss in 2019 of £5,065.
The PSPO banning cycling is unlawful as:
- It breaches the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 – 65 – 1 which states “A public spaces protection order may not restrict the public right of way over a highway.”
- The signage for the PSPO is in breach of the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2016 as the signage is not permitted? This is supported by the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 – 64 – 1 which states: “In this Act “traffic sign” means any object or device (whether fixed or portable) for conveying, to traffic on roads or any specified class of traffic, warnings, information, requirements, restrictions or prohibitions of any description“
- It is in breach of the Traffic Signs Manual – Chapter 1 – 3.3.1. “The erection of an unauthorised sign in the highway is an obstruction and the possible consequences of erecting or permitting the erection of obstructions can be severe. Those responsible could lay themselves open to a claim for damages, for example if an obstruction is the cause of an accident or an injury in a collision.”
- It Breaches the Traffic Signs Manual – Chapter 1 – 3.4.1.” Traffic signs in use on the highway must either be prescribed by TSRGD as amended, or be specially authorised by the national authority. Signs that are neither prescribed nor authorised are obstructions on the highway and must be removed.”
Officers Contradict Each Other
Andrea Bechtle confirmed that Paul Pace is at best mistaken.
- On 16 September 2019, Paul Pace Chief Officer Environment stated: “If you look at section 65 in full, it is clear that the areas covered by the PSPO are not highways to which section 65 applies. In any event, as explained above, the Traffic Regulation Order makes use of those areas unlawful, so they are not highways at all.”
- It was the Victorian judge John Maynard Byles who coined the phrase ‘once a highway, always a highway’ in the 1860 case of Dawes v Hawkins. This legal principle still holds true, and it remains the case that public highways can only lose this status if a formal ‘stopping-up’ order is applied for and approved by the relevant authority.
- As such, I made a Freedom of Information request for: “The Stopping-Up Order in relation to the area covered by the Cycling PSPO.”
- Andrea Bechtle FOI & EIR Officer confirmed on 4 November 2019: “In relation to the Stopping-up Order there isn’t one because the streets are still highways.”
NB: A Traffic Regulation Order can only be applied to a Highway.
Fraud Act 2006
Page 55 of the Anti-social behaviour powers – Statutory guidance for frontline professionals confirms:
“A person does not commit an offence by failing to comply with a prohibition or requirement that the council did not have power to include in a Public Spaces Protection Order.”
Consequently, to issue a FPN would be a breach of the Fraud Act 2006. This is a serious breach of the Fraud Act given that £109,100 was unlawful taken over just two years.
Referred To Philip Simpkins
Given the seriousness of the situation, I have referred the case to Philip Simpkins, Chief Executive Bedford Borough Council to address.