Punt touts flouting Public Spaces Protection Order

Punt touts continue to frequent King’s Parade, despite being banned from the street by Cambridge City Council a fortnight ago.

As part of their attempts to enforce the ban, the council are now proposing giving body cameras to its officers. They’re not the first to resort to technology in the long running dispute however – the Traditional Punting Company has already issued body cameras to its touts as they endeavour to prove that they are doing nothing wrong.

A Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO), which came into effect on 15th September, made it a criminal offence for punt tours in specified areas of the city centre, including King’s Parade. Under the PSPO, touts operating in the newly prohibited areas face a £75 fixed penalty notice.

The order sought to “limit touting for punting business to agree locations near authorised punting operations,” and end the “repeated interference in the lives of residents and tourists, wandering peacefully through the city centre.”

The area from which touts are banned under the new PSPO encompasses most of central Cambridge, extending from Magdalene College in north, to Downing Street, Pembroke Street, Mill Lane, and the area surrounding Mill Pond in the south. In addition to King’s Parade, touts are barred from other major thoroughfares, such as Bridge Street, Sidney Street and St Andrews Street, and open spaces such as the Backs, Jesus Green,  and the area surrounding Mill Pond are also off limits.

The order does however concede a number of “specified touting locations”, which are subject to a number of conditions laid out by the City Council.  These are the riverside at Quayside, Silver Street, the Trinity College frontage at Garret Hostel Lane, Queens’ Green, and the walkway from Quayside to Jesus Green.

The City Council’s Safer Communities project began considering implementing a PSPO in October 2015, in response to an ever-increasing number of touts vying to attract tourists in the city’s busiest areas, with even punting companies conceding that hotspots like King’s Parade are saturated with touts.

The council eventually took action after a consultation, in which 61 per cent of respondents were in favour of measures to tackle the levels of punt touting, which has come to be regarded as a public nuisance. The PSPO was also welcomed by Cambridgeshire County Council and police.

When the PSPO was announced, the leader of the City Council, Councillor Lewis Herbert said: “We will investigate any reports we receive about continued punt touting in the city centre that is in breach of the PSPO and away from river-based punting operations.”

Speaking to Varsity, the City Council's Safer Communities Manager, Lynda Kilkelly said: “The Council's Public Realm Enforcement team is working with the police and other agencies to take action in line with the council’s Enforcement Policy. We have issued a number of fixed penalty notices and will continue to enforce against breaches of the Public Spaces Protection Order.

“We have six Enforcement Officers who have a daily presence in the city but they cannot always  respond instantly to reports of numbers of touts in certain areas.    They do have other issues such as litter, flyposting and dog fouling to address also. 

“We encourage people to report breaches as these will be passed to the enforcement team who will respond to hotspot areas and will continue to patrol the city.

“We are monitoring the situation and will review progress on the enforcement next week.”