City Council to consult on acceptable behaviours in Oxford city centre to help create wider vision

Published: Friday, 8th November 2019

Oxford City Council has launched a public consultation to define the behaviours that residents, business owners and visitors think are acceptable and unacceptable in Oxford city centre.

The consultation is the first stage in a wider piece of work that will see the City Council create a vision for the whole city centre, including transport into and around the city centre; retail, food and beverage, tourism and the office sectors; and the public realm, street furniture and public toilets.

The document will aim to bring together existing strands of work – including the Zero Emission Zone and Connecting Oxford proposals, Covered Market masterplan, and Oxford 2050 – to create an overall vision for Oxford city centre.                                 

Members of the public, businesses and visitors will be asked for their views on each strand of the vision through consultations in the New Year. The City Council aims to complete the City Centre Vision in 2020.

City centre behaviours consultation

As part of the City Centre Vision, Oxford’s residents, businesses and visitors are now being asked to help define what they consider to be the acceptable and unacceptable behaviours within Oxford city centre.

The views collected during the consultation, which launches today (8/11) and runs until the beginning of January, will determine which anti-social behaviours the City Council aims to tackle going forward.

The consultation will ask people which behaviours they are most concerned about within Oxford city centre, whether or not they avoid parts of the city centre during the day or night due to anti-social behaviours, and how they would prefer to report anti-social behaviour in the future.

To take part in the consultation, please visit our Public Attitude Survey pages.

Focus groups

The City Council has already carried out focus groups with residents, city centre business owners and homeless people in order to get some initial thoughts about the acceptable and unacceptable behaviours in the city centre.

The focus groups, which took place between July and September, consisted of a group of 10 local residents, a group of 10 city centre business owners, and in-depth interviews with 10 people accessing homelessness services in the city.

The resident group raised concerns about pickpocketing, bicycle thefts, drunk and rowdy behaviour in Park End Street and George Street, and tourist coaches sitting with their engines running; the business group raised concerns about rogue tour guides, pick pocketing, drunk and rowdy behaviour in George Street, and noisy street entertainers.

The main concern of people accessing homelessness services in the city was safety. They said that they did not perceive the city centre streets to be a safe place to sleep, and felt particularly threatened by those leaving the pubs under the influence of alcohol who can abuse them, damage their property or physically assault them.

The initial thoughts have helped the City Council produce the questions within the new consultation.

City Centre PSPO

Previously, the unacceptable behaviours within Oxford city centre were defined by the City Centre Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO).

The aim of the PSPO was to deter anti-social behaviour from the city centre – including aggressive begging, illegal street trading, busking and inappropriate use of public toilets – and this has happened.

In February the City Centre PSPO came to an end, but other powers to tackle anti-social behaviour in Oxford city centre – including Community Protection Notices, and the city-wide dog control and alcohol PSPOs – remained in place.

Now, after eight months without a PSPO setting standards, the City Council’s Community Safety officers and Thames Valley Police agree that the impact of the Order is still being felt and many of the anti-social behaviours have not returned.

There is, for example, a reduction in people aggressively begging, Oxford no longer gets large numbers of street peddlers during St Giles’ Fun Fair, and busking is largely self-regulating through the current voluntary Code of Conduct, which is to be reviewed in 2020.

The City Council has now decided not to renew the City Centre PSPO.

Future of PSPOs in Oxford

Oxford currently has two city-wide PSPOs, tackling the control of dogs and dog fouling, and alcohol. Both were introduced in October 2017, after a national change in the law repealed control orders and automatically replaced them with PSPOs.

Both the alcohol and dog control PSPOs have been a success, helping to address dog fouling and loud parties in parks and open spaces across the city.

Going forwards, the City Council could look to use time-limited PSPOs to tackle specific anti-social behaviours in smaller, more targeted areas.

Visit our PSPOs page for more information about PSPOs in Oxford.

Tackling anti-social behaviour

Although new consultation will help focus the work of the City Council onto particular behaviours, it will not change the organisation’s approach to tackling anti-social behaviour, which requires using the lowest level of intervention possible.

This means that, in the first instance, City Council officers attempt to tackle anti-social behaviour by talking to people. Only if this fails and the person does not change their behaviour will officers use enforcement powers.

The City Council employs City Centre Ambassadors who patrol the city centre six hours per day, six days per week, engaging with people and reporting anti-social behaviour and environmental issues.

Visit our Anti-social behaviour pages for more information about our approach to tackling anti-social behaviour.

“Between Westgate Oxford, the City Council’s investment in the Covered Market, Jesus College’s redevelopment of Northgate House, and several other redevelopments, we have already had about half a billion pounds worth of investment in Oxford city centre in the last few years – and, with the redevelopment of Oxpens, the train station, and Osney Mead Industrial Estate all coming – even more is on the way.

“When you add to that the world-leading changes contained within the Zero Emission Zone and the Connecting Oxford proposals, you have a city centre that is perhaps going through the biggest change in its history – and all of it is happening at significant speed. Oxford city centre in a decade’s time will be a very different place.

“So it is only right that we consider this future now. Over the coming months we will be consulting residents on the future of every aspect of the city centre, but we are starting with the behaviours that people think are acceptable and unacceptable. So whether you are a local resident, a city centre business owner, or just a visitor to our beautiful city centre, please take part in the consultation.”

Councillor Mary Clarkson, Cabinet Member for Culture and City Centre