Words & pics by Ed King
After years of campaigning, Erdington High Street and the surrounding streets are now back under a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) – giving local law enforcement greater powers in tackling street crime, drinking, and anti-social behaviour.
Following a combined effort from the Erdington Business Improvement District (BID), Erdington Ward Councillors Robert Alden and Gareth Moore, and members of the North Local Partnership Delivery Group (LPDG) – working alongside West Midlands Police and Birmingham City Council – Erdington’s PSPO was finally approved and back in operation from Monday, 16 May.
Brought in under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, a PSPO allows local police teams to forcibly remove anyone from the ‘Restricted Area’ they suspect are intoxicated, behaving aggressively, or causing problems for other people – without an official crime being reported.
Starting on the corner of Oakfield and Wood End Road, the PSPO for Erdington covers from Orchard Road and across Sutton New Road – encompassing Abbey Catholic Primary School and Highclare School – then back up Summer Road to Six Ways Island and Erdington High Street.
With the previous PSPO running out in 2018, many residents, businesses, and constituency stakeholders have been championing to have it reinstated.
But despite seeming to be a unified ambition, there have historically been some objections against the PSPO in Erdington which stymied the process of reinstating the order.
Several reasons for the four year delay have been suggested, with Terry Guest, Erdington Town Centre Manger, previously telling Erdington Local:
“There’s a few stories about why it hasn’t been renewed. One is that someone objected on the grounds that the PSPO included beggars, and there was an objection against the human rights of beggars – because initially the order included the removal of beggars off the High Street.
“No one should be homeless, and we’ve done quite a lot of work with the police and their partners in helping people who are homeless.
“There’s another aspect to this and that’s professional begging, where people aren’t homeless, aren’t poor, and are begging on the High Street as a crime basically.”
Policing across the West Midlands has been slashed since 2010, with the regionwide budget losing £175m over the last 12 years. Over 2200 police officers have been lost, including around half of all officers allocated to neighbourhood and community policing.
However, even after the PSPO was passed at the end of 2021 the order still required Birmingham City Council to install signage before it could be enforced – which took nearly another six months.
Special training for local business owners was also needed from West Midlands Police, working alongside the Erdington Street Warden, Erdington Street Pastors, and private businesses security staff.
Following the eventual reinstalment of the PSPO last month, Erdington Ward Councillor Robert Alden said:
“We’re disappointed it has taken as long as this to get the signage up and training in place – for the zone to be enforceable it requires signs to go up on lampposts and training to be provided by the police, which we needed to get the Council to implement.
“But it’s now really positive that everything’s in place, and Gareth (Moore) and I have been working with the Erdington BID and the police to make sure that got moving.
“Now the police can start enforcing it (the PSPO) and hopefully it will lead to a safer High Street for people to be able to enjoy spending their time and shopping on.”