Portfolio Holder – Councillor Alasdair Ross
The Council has received a number of requests to install alley gates to stop anti-social behaviour (ASB) in alley ways at the rear of houses which are both privately owned and Council owned. There is no corporate policy or process for responding to these requests. This report requests Executive agree the adoption of the policy and guidance attached at Appendix 1.
152.1 Councillor Ross explained that the Council had received a number of requests for alley gates over the last few years and that there had been no standard way to approach these requests. A new Alley Gates Policy was proposed to ensure that requests were considered consistently. The scheme was unfortunately necessarily complicated as there were a number of legal issues surrounding the installation of gates.
152.2 In accordance with Standing Orders Part 3 Section 3 Paragraph 3.5, the following questions were asked:
Question 2 – Councillor Holmes
‘While I support the need for alley gates in certain circumstances, the proposed Policy fails to address key legal issues. Could the Executive explain:
a) How the Council can lawfully install a gate across an alley which in many circumstances would interfere with or obstruct a private right of way and would therefore require the consent by deed of every landowner and tenant together with any mortgagees entitled to use the right of way and failing which, the Council would be open to injunctive relief.
b) Why reference has been made to Public Space Protection Orders when it is generally accepted that private alleys do not constitute public places within s59 Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.
c) In consulting landowners and others about any proposed scheme, will the Council confirm to these parties that they will need to disclose the details of anti-social behaviour and the need for gates to any potential buyer on the sale of a property which could adversely affect the sale of a property.’
In response to Councillor Holmes questions, Councillor Ross explained that:
a) As was stated in the proposed policy, an alley gate would only proceed where 100% consent is received. If 75% consent had been achieved with no objections, then the specific details of the scheme would be brought to Executive and full legal advice will be taken on the specific circumstances and issues. Councillor Ross explained that in all circumstances the Council’s legal team would need to be satisfied before the Council would proceed with a scheme.
b) The Council’s Legal Services had advised that private land ownership was not in itself a bar to a Public Spaces Protection Order being made because of the wide definition of the term ‘public place’. Under the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 ‘public place’ means any place to which the public or any section of the public has access, on payment or otherwise, as of right or by virtue of express or implied permission. As each case must be considered on its own merits, there could be cases where an alleyway, including a private alley, could constitute a public place, depending on the particular circumstances.
c) There was no duty on the Council to advise homeowners to disclose ASB on a house sale as this was a private matter between them and their buyer. There was an obligation on the seller to disclose this information when asked directly during selling process and the seriousness of this disclosure would be made apparent on the paperwork that they would be sent as part of their property transaction.
Question 3 – Councillor Phillips
‘We understand the reasons for needing the policy but we seem to have made it virtually impossible to pass the criteria, some of which seems to be subjective. Does this have the opposite effect to the Councils commitment to reduce gang-related activity?’
Councillor Ross explained that the Council remained committed to addressing gang related activity and had allocated significant resources to tackling the issue in the recent budget. Councillor Ross noted that whilst the Alley Gates Policy might contribute towards these goals, it was mainly designed for other types of ASB such as fly tipping and drinking/drug taking. Councillor Ross explained that the threshold had been carefully considered and had been modelled using the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act as the trigger benchmark. Councillor Ross noted that communities did not have to involve the Council in installations unless they were proposed to be on Council owned land or where they wanted to use Council resources. Where they do not involve the Council communities would be able to set their own threshold. Councillor Ross added that the threshold was at the discretion of the Portfolio holder and the local ward councillors with help from the Community Safety Team to collate instances of ASB and progress the installation.
152.3 Councillor Jones noted that there had previously been substantial funding for alley gating in Ipswich from Government grants, however, these had now stopped and the Council had to have a policy to ensure that its limited resources were directed appropriately.
152.4 Councillor Ellesmere noted that the Policy had attempted to learn lessons from previous installations of alley gates, with issues such as repairs and access arrangements being covered.
It was RESOLVED:
thatthe Alley Gates Policy and Guidance in Appendix 1 of this report be adopted and that the Head of Housing and Community Services be authorised to implement it.
Reason: To provide clear direction relating to the Council’s involvement in alley gates.