County Durham residents are being encouraged to share their views on proposals to introduce new enforcement powers to tackle anti-social behaviour in a popular Teesdale beauty spot.
Durham County Council is seeking views on its plans to establish a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) in the area around Low Force, High Force and Gibson’s Cave.
The area, which forms part of the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and UNESCO Global Geopark, are designated sites of special scientific interest, and the council is hoping to introduce measures to protect the unique and picturesque landscape.
Always a popular location for both tourists and locals, since the first Covid lockdown in spring 2020, the area has seen an influx of mainly responsible and well-behaved visitors.
However, there has also been an increase in anti-social behaviours by a minority of people that impact on the environment and spoil the enjoyment of the area for others, including problems with alcohol and substance use, litter and dangerous parking.
The proposed PSPO would prohibit a number of behaviours which have a detrimental effect on the local environment and the experience of other visitors, including the consumption of alcohol and controlled drugs, lighting of fires and barbeques, and overnight camping. Harassing, obstructive, threatening and abusive behaviour would also become a criminal offence under the order.
If supported, the Public Space Protection Order would be introduced in July, ahead of warmer weather which is likely to bring more visitors to the area.
Trained council officers and Durham Constabulary staff will be able to issue Fixed Penalty Notices for breach of the Public Space Protection Order. Failure to pay the penalty notice will lead to prosecution.
The proposed PSPO is the latest in several intervention measures which the council has worked with partners to implement in the area, including increased security and monitoring, education, provision of larger litter bins and installation of double yellow lines.
Landowners, the Police, Fire and Rescue services, Natural England and volunteers from the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Upper Teesdale Agricultural Support Services have all joined forces with the council to protect the area from damage and to ensure visitors can enjoy their experience.
Cllr Mark Wilkes, the council’s Cabinet member for neighbourhoods and climate change, said: “Our county is blessed with some fantastic and dramatic landscapes and breath-taking views, which we want to remain safe and welcoming to visitors.
“During the period of Covid restrictions over the past two years, cases of rural anti-social behaviour have risen across the country. Unfortunately, in County Durham, picturesque areas such as those covered by this consultation are no exception. The introduction of a PSPO will help to tackle the irresponsible behaviour of a selfish minority which spoils the area for others.
Cllr John Shuttleworth, Cabinet member for rural communities and highways, said: “With its coast, countryside and parks, our county has lots of amazing spaces for people to explore. As summer approaches and people begin to spend more time outdoors, it’s more important than ever that people protect the environment, respect local communities and act considerately, so that the area remains unspoilt for others. The new PSPO powers will hopefully encourage people to enjoy these scenic spots responsibly.”
Residents, businesses and visitors have until midnight on Thursday 16 June to view the consultation at www.durham.gov.uk/consultation and submit their feedback via the online survey or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org