From booze bans to homeless spikes: is public space under threat?

A debate at the House of St Barnabas grapples with the rapidly changing world of what is and isn't permitted in public space


07:00pm, Wednesday, 7 October 2015


08:30pm, Wednesday, 7 October 2015


The House of St Barnabas, 1 Greek St, London W1D 4NQ


Tickets: £7.50 / £5.00.

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Proposals earlier this year by Hackney Council to fine homeless people £100 for sleeping rough in particular areas provoked much outrage from campaigners, leading to a policy reversal. For many, the move represented the latest depressing example of increasingly heavy-handed measures against rough sleepers, in combination with the increasing trend for ‘homeless spikes’ outsides shops and flats. For others, however, it also represented another illustration of the problems created by the creation of Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs). Created by the Antisocial Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, the orders grant local authorities greater powers to set and enforce restrictions on activity held to have a ‘detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality’.

Campaigners argue that the powers can be broadly and arbitrarily deployed, with buskers and dog-walkers among those hit by the regulations. It has been suggested that the orders foster a culture of illiberalism in public space, with bar-owners and restaurateurs arguing they have been unfairly targeted by licensing restrictions. Local authorities counter that the powers enable them to effectively punish nuisance behaviour, as called for by residents and business-owners, and that such measures are usually only imposed following a public consultation. Yet on both sides anxiety has been raised about the extent to which council officials and private security firms have been granted authority usually reserved for police officers, yet lacking the same legal accountability.

Are PSPOs a threat to civil liberties or an important last-ditch tool for councils? Are the police guilty of passing on responsibility to enforce existing laws against antisocial behaviour, or are local authorities better placed to negotiate competing views of acceptable public activity? Has society become more intolerant of unregulated and rowdy behaviour in public spaces, or are the regulations an example of mission creep by officials? Are public bodies simply acting in the interests and will of its electorate or does it encourage an increasingly legalistic or bureaucratic approach to social problems? Who should decide on what is acceptable in the public sphere?

There are a limited number of free tickets for House of St Barnabas members. Please contact for more information




Dave Clements Public servant; blogger, Huffington Post; convenor, IOI Social Policy Forum.


Dolan Cummings Associate fellow, Institute of Ideas; editor, Debating Humanism; co-founder, Manifesto Club


Emma Dent-Coad Planning spokesperson, Labour Group, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council; design and architecture journalist


Annabel Mullin PhD researcher, UCL Institute of Education, Lib Dem GLA candidate


Colin Tweedy Chief executive, The Building Centre Trust; formerly chief executive, Arts & Business




Claire Fox Director, Institute of Ideas; panellist, BBC Radio 4's Moral Maze

This debate is one a number of satelite events in the run up to the Battle of Ideas. Architecture Foundation members can get 50% off tickets to the Battle of Ideas (look for the discount code in the next members' email alert).