Is it anti-social behaviour if you have an untidy garden?

Council officers will make more use of existing powers
Council officers will make more use of existing powers

New measures to tackle anti-social behaviour in South Ribble could see residents forced to tidy their gardens.

The borough council is beefing up the way it uses community protection notices (CPNs), government-granted powers which local authorities and the police have to tackle anything which has a “detrimental effect on the quality of life” of residents.

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Lib Dem group leader David Howarth said it was only the more extreme garden messes – “the abandoned fridge, a couple of car engines and builders rubble” – which were likely to attract a CPN.

But he suggested that they could also be used as “a last resort option” when troublesome plants have been allowed to take hold.

“We do have problems in the borough with things like horsetails and ragwort – some front gardens are just nothing but that, because owners or occupiers won’t do anything [about it],” said Cllr Howarth, confidence and supply partner to the ruling Labour group.

The meeting heard that the government had issued guidance on using CPNs to control the rapid-spreading Japanese knotweed – but that a council would have to prove that it was “causing harm and distress”.

Conservative councillor Phil Smith warned that deciding what constituted an untidy garden was “very subjective”.

“Who decides whether it is anti-social behaviour or not?” he asked.

Council leader Paul Foster agreed that the authority would have to be “careful” about how it used the powers in relation to gardens.

But he said the broader use of CPNs to tackle anti-social behaviour would be of benefit to residents whose lives were blighted by it.

“We will not accept anti-social behaviour and will do everything in our power to protect our communities,” Cllr Foster said

Cabinet members agreed to increase the council’s capacity to issue CPNs and for the authority’s officers to work with neighbourhood policing teams in drawing them up where appropriate.

Behaviour attracting the notices must not only have a detrimental impact on quality of life, but also be unreasonable and persistent. They must be preceded by the issuing a community protection warning (CPW).

If a CPN is handed out, it is an offence to breach it and could result in a fine or prosecution. The powers have been in place nationwide since 2014 and can be used to combat nuisance behaviour which falls outside other legislation.

Maragaret Smith, leader of the Conservative opposition group, said she welcomed the move to increase their use in South Ribble.

“If it’s applied in the correct manner, it will be a useful tool,” Cllr Smith said.