Agenda item

Agenda item

Public Safety and addressing anti-social behaviour on Oxford's waterways.


Background Information

The Scrutiny Committee has asked for this item to be included on the agenda for pre-decision scrutiny.

Why is it on the agenda?

The City Executive Board will be asked to not progress the draft Waterways Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) instead officers are being asked to identify localised solutions to public safety concerns for issues found on the waterways.  This report will be going to the CEB meeting on 6 April 2017. This is an opportunity for the Scrutiny Committee to make recommendations to the City Executive Board.

Who has been invited to comment?

Councillor Dee Sinclair, Board Member for Community Safety and Richard Adams, Community Safety Service Manager will attend to answer the Committee’s questions.





Cllr Wade, Councillor for St Margaret’s ward addressed the committee. She felt the solutions suggested for the Aristotle Rd mooring were not needed.

·         Pollution levels are negligible and need to be independently verified before considered a nuisance.

·         Complaints about boats overstaying the 48 hour time period came from a few residents who complain numerous times.


Councillor Dee Sinclair, Board Member for Community Safety presented the report. She outlined the background of the report, and explained that after the preliminary consultation had decided not to progress the plan for a full waterway PSPO.


The Community Safety Service Manager said the waterways were an asset to be protected and officers had identified 4 problem areas that required bespoke solutions.


The Committee discussed the following:


They welcomed the excellent example of engagement that had taken place, the proposed review of the waterways as a whole, the carefully prepared Equalities Impact Assessment and the narrowing of focus since the previous report a year ago, which had proposed a PSPO for the entirety of the Oxford waterways (and was not supported by a majority of the Committee at the time).


They considered the feedback provided by different groups in the preliminary consultation.  Members heard that land owners had tended to support the original waterways PSPO proposal, boaters had not supported it and businesses had asked for specific issues to be tackled, such as drug use and paraphernalia.  The Community Safety Service Manager said that the engagement had been high quality and provided assurance that the level of response had been very good for an engagement exercise of this nature.


They raised concerns that a PSPO was listed as an intervention option on the Folly Bridge to Iffley Lock stretch of the River Thames, given that this was a big stretch of river.  The Committee also raised concerns about issues such as sewage dumping in this stretch of river, which was popular with rowers and tourists.  The Community Safety Service Manager advised that PSPOs could be suitable in particular hotspots.  No decisions had been taken yet on which intervention options would be utilised and there would be a process to go through.


They questioned what powers the Council had to enter and inspect boats when concerns about sanitation and safety had been identified.  The Community Safety Service Manager explained that gaining the right of entry was difficult but that the Private Sector Safety Team had some limited powers that had been used at Castle Mill Stream. 


They sought assurances that strong partnerships were in place to support potentially vulnerable people living on the Oxford waterways and that clear pathways were in place with clear responsibilities that worked seamlessly in practice.  The Community Safety Service Manager advised that pathways were in place but that the crucial issue was one of effective engagement with particular individuals living in squalor on the waterways who had complex needs and chaotic lifestyles.  Triage was used in high demand cases and there had been a small number of positive interventions.


They considered the extent to which fumes from boats were a problem at Aristotle Lane, adjacent to a playground, and heard opposing views about this and the significance of a resident’s complaints.  The Community Safety Service Manager said that the impact of smoke can vary in different climatic conditions and that some fumes (e.g. diesel emissions) were more visible than others.  The Council had investigated on some 70 occasions whether fumes at Aristotle Lane constituted a statutory nuisance in response to complaints.  To date a statutory nuisance had not been identified but that did not mean that fumes were not a real issue at Aristotle Lane at certain points in time.  The Council was also supportive of a ‘quiet zone’ at this location including a limit of two boats being present during winter months (with some specific exceptions allowed).  


In response to a question about riparian land ownership, the Committee heard that the problem of identifying land owners was a significant and complex problem to resolve.  The provision of additional temporary and permanent moorings, which was identified as being integral to addressing safety issues at the areas of concern, would also be challenging to achieve.  The Council wanted to achieve a regularised environment with sensible solutions to these issues.


They noted that the timetable for addressing the four areas of concern and conducting a review into the wider use of the waterways is dependent upon identifying resources to take this work forward.  The Committee strongly support this work and hope that appropriate resources can be made available at the earliest opportunity.


The Committee requested a progress report in a year.


The Scrutiny Committee made the following recommendation to the City Executive Board.


That resources are made available at the earliest opportunity for addressing the areas of concern and conducting a wider review of the use of the Oxford waterways.

Supporting documents: