Oxford City Council has removed the prohibition of rough sleeping from their proposed Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO), meaning that it will not become a criminal offence. 

The inclusion of a prohibitionof rough sleeping in the PSPO was part of a measure to tackle anti-social behaviour in Oxford’s city centre. However, the Oxford city council confirmed in a statement on 18th  that this section has been removed from the proposal, stating, “The draft proposals to deal with pidgeon nuisance and with rough sleepers who have been provided with indoor accommodation but fail to use it have not been included in the recommendations to the CEB.

“In both cases, the consultation process indicated that an Order of this type was not likely to be the most effective way of tackling these issues.”

This change has been welcomd by On Your Doorstep (OYD), OUSU’s homelessness action group. Freya Turner, chairman of OYD, commented on the result, telling Cherwell, “We at OYD are very pleased that Oxford City Council has listened to our concerns and those of the sector, and has excluded rough sleeping from the PSPO.

“This isbecause activism brought into relief the fact that rough sleeping, which is a product of unfortunate circumstances, should not be lumped together with practices likefeeding pidgeons, which is behaviour that anyone can choose to refrain from.

“Moreover, the PSPO as a piece of legislation was clearly not designed for dealing with rough sleeping, because it was restricted to a particular area – the city centre – and therefore it would have just displaced the homeless people further out of the city, which is not a constructive way to help them and would have made it harder for services to reach them.”

OYD began their campaign against the proposed prohibition on rough sleeping two months ago with a petition on change.org. The petition gathered significant momentum, gaining 72,280 signatures by the time the Council changed its plans. 

OYD successfully passed a motion hrough OUSU securing OUSU support for the group’s stance on the PSPO. Last week also saw OYD campaigning on Cornmarket Street against the criminalisation of rough sleeping.

The Oxford City Council responded to OYD’s opposition in late April, releasing a statement in response to the petition, assuring people, “The consultation process has been widely supported and before any decision is taken, the Council will be looking closely at what residents, businesses and visitors have said.”

Council Leader Bob Price commented, “The propoal has been developed by the Council’s Anti-Social Behaviour team in response to complaints from city centre traders, residents and visitors about a range of anti-social and nuisance behaviour.

“it seeks to provide a clear framework for city centre activities which will maintain the vibrant and active character that we enjoy throughout the year, while dealing efectively with behaviours that could damage the quality of the city centre experience for shopping, eating and entertainment. It will rprovide legal powers for the first time to tackl persistant offenders who cause a nuisance.”