Public Space Protection Order

London Borough of Bexley boroughwide Public Space Protection Order (PSPO)


The Local Authority received a request from Bexley police for a boroughwide Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) to help reduce the community impact of drug and alcohol misuse in public spaces – specifically the environmental impact of nitrous oxide canisters and problematic street drinking and associated anti-social behaviour. Under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Police and Crime Act 2014, the power to make Public Space Protection Orders rests with the Deputy Director Neighbourhoods.

Before the conditions and scope of the PSPO were agreed, the Local Authority was required to evaluate the evidence including a consultation to the public to ensure that:

  • the LA properly understand the issues and the full impact of the behaviour in question
  • any resulting conditions are proportionate and effective.

The consultation results can be found in the Public consultation results section below.


Consideration has been given by Bexley Police, London Borough of Bexley, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and Public Health regarding the following:

  • Exploring the evidence presented by Police and stakeholders as well as the results from the public consultation
  • Identify short term “one-off” initiatives to assist in improving the immediate concerns which included police patrols, education campaign and short-term police dispersal powers when appropriate
  • Good practice and processes elsewhere
  • Considering whether there is sufficient evidence and ASB to suggest that the borough was suffering a persistent negative impact.

Having considered the above points, it has been agreed that a borough-wide PSPO would assist in addressing the behaviours and public health implications associated with drug and alcohol misuse in public spaces – specifically the environmental impact of nitrous oxide canisters and problematic street drinking and associated anti-social behaviour.

What is a PSPO

PSPOs were introduced in the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. This Act gives powers to the Local Authority as part of its statutory obligations for ASB, crime and disorder. It replaces the previous “Dispersal Zone” powers given to local authorities and contained in legislation that has since been repealed. It differs in as much as the new PSPO powers permit local authorities to include the activities that are prohibited. 

A PSPO is designed to reduce the opportunity for individuals or groups to commit anti-social behaviour or criminal activity in a public space and identifies the specific activities being carried out in the public space that are sought to be prohibited by such an order.

A failure to comply with the PSPO conditions without a reasonable reason for doing so - is a breach of the order and is a criminal offence. This is explained in more detail in the Implementation - prohibitions, enforcement, breaches, and monitoring section below.



Prior to Bexley police requesting a PSPO they conveyed a public consultation to assist with the evidence base. This boroughwide survey was carried out between 20 August 2020 and 28 October 2020 and 2258 residents responded. Of those responses, 2184 supported the introduction of a PSPO in Bexley and 57 did not support with 17 responders skipping this question.

Additionally, as a local authority we are aware of the litter issue which the nitrous oxide canisters cause and the negative public opinion that these bring to an area. Pictures and complaints about their misuse have been received from Highways enforcement, residents, ward councillors, police, ward panel chairs and through social media.

Also, street drinking has been reported as a concern across various locations in Bexley. Since the introduction of a borough-wide PSPO in Royal Borough of Greenwich, individuals have been identified as moving into Bexley to continue their street drinking activity. It has been reported that street drinking can be intimidating to members of the public, particularly when there are groups of individuals congregating.

London Borough of Bexley Environmental Crime Enforcement – Nitrous Oxide Canisters statement

“I am responsible for enforcement of fly-tipping and littering in Bexley borough, and as part of my duties, I also facilitate contract monitoring with Kingdom Ltd who provide environmental enforcement on behalf of the Local Authority.

Having lived and worked in the Bexley area for many years I have recently noticed a huge increase in the number of Nitrous Oxide canisters which are littered across Council parks and streets. Generally, I have noticed that illegal deposits of these canisters come in 2 forms – individual canisters which have been dropped immediately following the use of balloons, or boxes full of used canisters which appear to have been littered in streets from cars. Collection of these canisters often lead to additional costs to the Council since we are regularly required to send crews to collect them in addition to the general street cleansing rotas.

These canisters cannot be easily recycled because of the compressed air contained within unused canisters, meaning that they are generally disposed of as general waste. They are often dumped alongside empty balloons and boxes which can quickly lead to an area becoming unsightly. These canisters also rust quickly, which can lead to the spread of harmful bacteria.

I am very much in support of setting up a borough-wide Public Space Protection Order as a measure to restrict or prevent the use and possession of these canisters”.

Community Safety statement

“Both street drinking and the misuse of nitrous oxide canisters is something that is often highlighted to community safety as a concern to residents within London Borough of Bexley. Statistics are not directly available to support this as both street drinking and the misuse of nitrous oxide canisters are not categories in which our casework is recorded, this would be logged under ‘ASB’ or ‘drug and alcohol’, dependent on the nature of the report.

Street drinking is a concern in pockets across London Borough of Bexley, the areas of concern are regularly the same but are often seasonal. Likewise, the gas canisters appear at many locations across the borough but are difficult to track due to the under reporting and the way in which this is recorded. The use of both substances can be directly linked to many crime types including violent crime as well as incidents of anti-social behaviour. The introduction of the PSPO will address the concerns raised by the local communities and provide support, engagement and/or enforcement to those that are causing the concern and address the public health concern”

LA Kingdom statement

“I am Team Leader for Environmental Enforcement at LA Support Ltd working on behalf of London Borough Bexley. Parts of my duties relate to enforcement and prosecution of individuals in relation to littering offences. My organisation is also involved in enforcement of Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) on behalf of Councils across the UK.

Having worked within the London Borough of Bexley for 4 years, I can confirm that I have observed a growing issue with public drinking in the borough. In particular, the problem areas include Bexleyheath, Belvedere, Erith, and Crayford. There are several individuals who my team have observed drinking alcohol in these areas on a regular basis. I understand that several of these individuals have no fixed address. My team have tried explaining numerous times that they should not be drinking in these areas, but unfortunately, they are aware that it is not an offence in the Borough, so they ignore us.

LA Support Ltd also provide enforcement of the street drinking PSPOs in Royal Borough Greenwich, and I have noticed a general reduction in the number of street drinkers present in the high streets of Greenwich Borough since our organisation has been given enforcement powers”.

Public consultation results

A public consultation was launched on Wednesday 6th October 2021 and was closed at mid-day on Wednesday 20th October 2021. 1663 responses were received with 97% of residents supporting a boroughwide PSPO to address the misuse of nitrous oxide canisters, and 85% of residents in support of a borough-wide PSPO for street drinking.

In addition, the consultation asked:

  • In the last 12 months have you witnessed anyone mis-using nitrous oxide gas canisters in London Borough of Bexley? - 42% said they had.
  • In the last 12 months have you seen street drinking in London Borough of Bexley? – 69% said they had.
  • In the last 12 months have you seen nitrous oxide gas canisters littered in London Borough of Bexley? - 99% said they had.
  • Does the misuse of nitrous oxide gas canisters cause you to feel alarm, harassed or distressed? - 85% said yes.
  • If you have seen street drinkers in London Borough of Bexley, does this cause you to feel alarmed, harassed, or distressed? - 64% said yes.

The consultation results confirm that there is wide support for the PSPO.

Implementation - prohibitions, enforcement, breaches, and monitoring


The prohibited behaviours are as follows:

  • Commit, or be likely to commit, alcohol-related anti-social behaviour
  • Be in possession of (without a lawful or reasonable excuse); Consume, inhale, inject or smoke any substance capable of stimulating or depressing the central nervous system (e.g., nitrous oxide)
  • Behave in an anti-social manner within any public car park or any park within the London Borough of Bexley
  • Behave in an anti-social manner in any other public space within London Borough of Bexley, whether on your own, or with any other person(s)

Copy of the signed order, see Appendix B PSPO-Order 2021 (PDF).


The enforcement of the PSPO will be carried out by Met Police and LA Kingdom enforcement officers.


There will be a two tiered approach to enforce breaches of the PSPO. This will be divided between those under 18 years of age and those over the age of 18:

Under 18 years:

  • On the first occasion, children will be issued with brief intervention cards and letters will be sent to parents.
  • On the second occasion, children will be referred through to the Anti-Social Behaviour Prevention Panel and parents will be asked to consider referring their child to CAMHS Substance Misuse Services. At this stage Information will be appropriately shared between agencies and appropriate support through available tools and powers will be considered and implemented.

Over 18 years:

Those over the age of 18 years will:

  • Receive a brief Intervention card which includes Adult Substance Misuse Service contact details and
  • Receive an on the spot fixed penalty notice of £100

On the second occasion, adults will be referred to the Anti-Social Behaviour prevention panel, ensuring that a multi-agency approach is taken to provide necessary support, interventions, and monitoring.

FPNs and Court Orders

The charge for receiving a fixed penalty notice is £100; this would be reduced to £60 if paid within 10 days. This was agreed as part of the Council’s Scheme of Delegations’ report which was considered and approved in 2015.

Equality impact assessment

The Equality Impact Assessment for the boroughwide PSPO can be found in Appendix A.

Part A: Overall Assessment

There is potential for the PSPO to have some negative equalities impacts if not implemented and enforced correctly. We have put in place a series of mitigations to ensure that the PSPO is implemented in a way that enables the Council’s Public Sector Equalities Duty and:

  1. eliminates unlawful discrimination.
  2. advances equality of opportunity.
  3. fosters good relations.

Part B: Impact on People who Hold Protected Characteristics

This strategy supports the Council’s execution of its Public Sector Equality Duty. For the purposes of assessing impact, this proposal has been classified as highly relevant to equalities.

Protected Characteristic Assessment of this proposal’s relevance
Age High
Disability Medium
Gender Reassignment Low
Marriage and Civil Partnership Low
Pregnancy and maternity Low
Race Medium
Religion / belief Low
Sexual orientation Low
Sex Low
Protected Characteristic Equalities Impact / Risk Mitigation
Age There is a risk that younger adults may be disproportionately impacted by the PSPO. We have worded the conditions in a way that relies less on the judgement of the enforcement officer and more on the behaviour being exhibited.
There will be an appeal process that will take unconscious bias into consideration.
Local publicity and a phased approach to implementation will ensure people are made aware of the conditions.
Age Children should be given a chance to understand the impact of their behaviour before enforcement action is taken. Under 18 year olds will not receive FPNs but will instead be encouraged to take up support services. Parents will be contacted where there are concerns over a child’s safety.
Disability The conditions set may not be as easily understood by people with learning disabilities and neurodiverse conditions. Signage to include pictorial diagrams.
Easy read versions to be circulated amongst schools and parent forums.
Race / Ethnicity The conditions set may not be as easily understood by communities where English is a second language. Signage to include pictorial diagrams.
Easy read versions to be circulated amongst community groups.

Frequently asked questions

What is a PSPO?

PSPOs are one of the tools available under the 2014 Act. These are wide-ranging and flexible powers for local authorities, which recognise that councils are often best placed to identify the broad and cumulative impact that ASB can have. The Act gives councils the authority to draft and implement PSPOs in response to the particular issues affecting their communities, provided certain criteria and legal tests are met. Councils can use PSPOs to prohibit specified activities, and/or require certain things to be done by people engaged in particular activities, within a defined public area. PSPOs differ from other tools introduced under the Act as they are council-led, and rather than targeting specific individuals or properties, they focus on the identified problem behaviour in a specific location.

How long will the boroughwide PSPO be in place?

A PSPO can be in place for a maximum of 3 years when a review must then take place and if the evidence supports the extension, it can be extended for another 3 years. There is no limit on the number of extensions that can be applied. The LBB boroughwide PSPO is in place for a 3-year period with regular reviews of all processes.

Can the PSPO be legally challenged?

Yes, PSPOs can be challenged under the Act on the grounds that the local authority did not have the power either to make the Order or include particular prohibitions or requirements, or that proper processes had not been followed as prescribed by the legislation. Challenges must be made to the High Court within six weeks of the Order being made, and by an individual who lives in, regularly works in, or visits the restricted area. The High Court can uphold, quash, or vary the PSPO and may decide to suspend the operation of the PSPO pending the verdict. As with all orders and powers, the making of a PSPO can be challenged by judicial review on public law grounds within three months of the decision or action subject to challenge.

Why do we need a boroughwide PSPO?

The nitrous oxide canisters have been causing a nuisance on borough for many years. The sheer number of canisters discarded in any one area causes the area to feel neglected and run down. It is not illegal to be in possession of nitrous oxide canisters and the police only have powers to enforce where extremely large numbers of canisters are found on a person and where a retailer knowingly sells the canisters for their misuse. Likewise, drinking in a public place is not an offence and the PSPO would provide the much needed additional powers both to offer support and to enforce. There are particular areas in Bexley across the borough that have street drinking which causes an issue such as Belvedere, Sidcup, Bexleyheath, Welling Crayford, and Erith to name just a few.

How was the consultation advertised/circulated?

This was mainly done online through the London Borough of Bexley website, a press release, social media pages, via partner networks and raised at community engagement events that took place during this period.

Who will be enforcing the PSPO?

The Police and LA Kingdom will enforce the PSPO and give out the support cards to those who are stopped both under and over 18 years of age.

Have the conditions been decided?

Yes, the conditions have been agreed following the results of the consultation. The prohibited behaviours are as follows:

  • Commit, or be likely to commit, alcohol-related anti-social behaviour
  • Be in possession of (without a lawful or reasonable excuse); Consume, inhale, inject or smoke any substance capable of stimulating or depressing the central nervous system (e.g., nitrous oxide)
  • Behave in an anti-social manner within any public car park or any park within the London Borough of Bexley
  • Behave in an anti-social manner in any other public space within London Borough of Bexley, whether on your own, or with any other person(s)

Will there be signage to highlight the areas within the PSPO?

As this is a boroughwide PSPO it is likely that the signage will be placed in strategic places, particularly where there are known areas of concern including town centres, car parks, parks.

A full list of the boroughs public car parks can be found at Car parks and on-street parking.

A full list of the borough's parks can be found at Parks to visit around the borough

A map of the borough shows the PSPO area below. 

What has already been tried to negate the concerns/issues that the PCSO will address?

There is limited action that can be taken as the activity is not illegal. There are ASB tools and powers that can be applied and have been but the introduction of a PSPO will provide additional powers and the additional support of LA Kingdom. Historically the youth service provided education and awareness in schools, but this function is not available in the new arrangements of targeted service. A card will be produced and given to all that breach the PSPO, and this will offer awareness of the implications of misusing nitrous oxide and alcohol as well as providing contact details to seek support.

How do I report the use or littering of nitrous oxide canisters or anti-social street drinking?

Littering issues can be reported at Bexley's FixMyStreet

Anti-social street drinking can be reported using Reporting an antisocial behaviour issue

In an emergency always call 999. You should use this service to contact the police in situations when you need an immediate response, for example, if a crime is in progress or if someone is in immediate danger.

You should report to the police immediately if it's regarding an assault, criminal damage, hate crime, vandalism, drug use, drug cultivation or drug dealing as only they can deal with these issues.

If it's an incident that has already happened and doesn't need an immediate response, you can:

You may wish to report anonymously via Crimestoppers or by calling 0800 555111.