The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 allows local authorities the power through a public space protection order (PSPO) to restrict public right of way over a highway to reduce crime and Antisocial Behaviour. Alley Gates are something that has been around for quite some years in Burnley. They are basically big steel gates that are erected at the entrances to a back alley to close off the area and prevent people who don’t live there getting access.
The gates are fitted to areas that are suffering from crime and antisocial behaviour that is caused by people who don’t live within the block. The idea being that if you block off the access to the general public then it is likely to prevent that crime happening. It’s what the police refer to as “target hardening”; a physical means of strengthening a building in order to prevent crime.
Gating of a back street or alleyway is only half of the job. To ensure the success of a scheme cooperation from all residents is essential. If residents work together to keep them locked at all times, then they can drastically reduce burglaries and other crimes and undesirable behaviour that happen on the back street. If they are left open, then the gates might as well not be there!
It’s not just as easy as saying “we think we should put a gate up here” though. In order for gates to be installed a process must be completed and the area must meet certain criteria. You may have heard of the PSPO being used in relation to the town centre area. In the case of Alley gates, the Council is creating a very small version of this type of order that is specific to one alley, so the powers need to be backed up with evidence that they are required in the first place.
What alley gates are NOT there to do is ‘gate in’ problems. So if the people causing the issue live on your block, they are not going to help. They are unlikely to help if your neighbours dump rubbish on the back street, have unwanted visitors to their houses, let their dog out to foul on the back street or have kids that are causing a disturbance. They are also not going to help if the problems happen on your front street.
The schemes are not without capital expense. Each year, Burnley Council sets aside a budget that allows a number of these gated schemes to be installed. In 2017/18 the budget was around £25,000. Schemes vary in cost, as some back streets have one entrance and some have more. Generally, the budget allows for around 5 schemes a year. This year, the Council has decided to double that budget during the next two years, with the view to fitting an extra 10 schemes.
So if you’re having problems in your neighbourhood and think alley gates might help, what can you do?
So how do you know who to report things to?
Alley Gates aren’t the answer to all neighbourhood problems, and this is why I’m currently working with officers who are looking at innovative ways to use the legislation to create cost effective ways of reducing the problems people face. I’m hoping that over the next few months some of these ideas will be trialed to gauge their success. The more tools available for officers to tackle problems, the more likely you are to have safer neighbourhoods for the future.