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LOCAL COMMUNITIES BACK ALLEYWAY CLOSURES TO COMBAT CRIME

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Fourteen local authorities have applied for powers to close alleyways ...
Fourteen local authorities have applied for powers to close alleyways

(known in some areas as gulleys or gunnels) which are making it

easier to commit crimes such as robbery, burglary, arson and drug

dealing, rural affairs and urban quality of life minister Alun

Michael announced today.

Defra is considering applications to have 'crime hotspots' designated

under an initiative to cut crime facilitated by rights of way in

urban areas. The 14 applications already received for inclusion in

the first phase of this new initiative cover 74 areas considered to

be high priority by residents, police and local authorities. The

successful applications are expected to be announced in early July.

Mr Michael said:

'The ability to close off rights of way to prevent access by

criminals and vandals is good news for people whose lives have for

years been made a misery by crime. Until now, the inflexibility of

the rights of way legislation has prevented residents from doing

anything about alleyways that give criminals access to the backs of

residential properties and an easy means of escape.

'The aim is to target these measures on places where there are real

problems with crime facilitated by rights of way, and where other

methods of tackling crime have failed. That is why we are asking

local authorities to apply to have areas designated where they think

this power will be needed.

'In many cases they are redundant alleyways, provided when rear

access was essential for removing ashes and household waste and when

patterns of transport and waste collection were different from today.

'We are considering applications from 14 authorities for a total of

74 areas, and we expect to announce which areas will be designated in

early July. As with existing powers to close rights of way, where the

new powers are used, local authorities will be required to invite

objections to every proposal to divert or close a right of way a nd

take those objections into account.

'It is clear from the evidence that local authorities have included

in their applications that there is widespread support from local

residents and neighbourhood groups, who are fed up with the repeated

burglary, assault, arson, drug dealing and the general anti-social

behaviour that is associated with some alleyways. We have designed

the system to avoid the risk that important public rights of way

might be affected.

'Residents complain of falling house prices and difficulty selling

their homes because they are close to a problem alleyway. Some have

been forced to go to great lengths and personal expense to protect

their families through measures such as building high walls and

installing CCTV. But this does not always work, and for some the only

solution would seem to be closing the alleyway.

'Both from evidence in my own constituency and my recent experience

at the Home Office, I am acutely aware of the problems that some

communities face with crime and the relief that these new powers will

bring to beleaguered residents. They have considerable cross-party

support from MPs and are backed by local councils, residents and

police. That is why we have introduced them at the earliest

opportunity.'

Frank Whiteley, the Association of Chief Police

Officers (ACPO) lead on anti-social behaviour and deputy chief

constable of Northamptonshire Police, said: which were not public

rights of way, which were either generating crime or providing

offenders with the means to evade the police. By working in

partnership with local residents and local authorities, such schemes

have been successfully implemented around the country.

'Evidence of the use of alley gates in parts of London has

demonstrated that a gate can bring down the number of rear access

burglaries by up to 90 per cent. We fully support this particular

method of designing out crime when appropriately applied to are as of

need and preferably delivered to complement a broader, partnership

approach to reducing crime in local areas.'

NOTES

1. The following authorities have applied for designation:

Name of Local Authority Application Number of areas

received requested

Knowsley MBC 1 3

Manchester 1 25

Redcar and Cleveland 1 4

Dudley 1 1

Milton Keynes 1 1

Halton BC 1 1

Walsall MBC 1 5

Trafford MBC 1 7

Rochdale MBC 1 1

Salford 1 4

Hillingdon 1 3

Leeds 1 13

Rotherham 1 5

Bradford 1 1

Total 14 74

2. Applications can be viewed at the department's library at Nobel

House, 17 Smith Square, London SW1P 3JR. Tel: 0207 238 6003.

3. The new powers to close or divert rights of way for crime

prevention arise from the long- standing criticism from MPs and

councillors that back-alleys on some housing estates provide easy

access to houses for burglars, provide a sheltered haven for drug

dealing and an escape route for offenders evading the police, while

no longer being used as a useful shortcut for the local community.

Existing procedures make it very difficult to close these rights of

way, and people find it difficult to understand the bureaucratic

obstacles to a common sense closure. At the same time, there has been

real fear that any new power might be misused, for example, to remove

rights of way in rural areas, or where there is no good reason to

close a useful alley or pathway.

4. In February, local authorities were issued with guidance on how to

apply to have areas designated. The guidance was prepared after a

wide-ranging public consultation last year, which included every

English local authority and police authority, the Local Government

Association, ACPO, and several other organisations with an interest

in rights of way.

5. Local highway authorities will usually take the

lead, working with crime and disorder reduction partnerships, police

authorities, local residents and user groups to formulate a

submission to the secretary of state seeking the inclusion of an

area, or areas, in a designation order. In county areas, the district

authority or the local crime and disorder reduction partnership may

be able to make a submission if the county council is unwilling to do

so.

6. There is a phased approach to designating areas. The first

designation orders will be prepared for submissions received by 6

May. The areas where the need for these new powers is an immediate

priority will be identified.

7. The secretary of state proposes to review the first designation

orders not less than three years from the orders being made. This

review will provide an opportunity for us to assess the operation of

the provisions, taking stock of any lessons learned. It will also

ensure that proper account is taken of changing crime patterns. It is

envisaged that the review of the designation order may result in

amendment to, or revocation of, that order. This period will, in the

majority of cases, provide reasonable opportunity for highway

authorities to make the special extinguishment and diversion orders

they consider necessary. If it is necessary for any area to continue

to be included in the designation order after the three-year period,

it is anticipated the relevant highway authority wi ll need to make a

further submission to the secretary of state.

8. Areas for which submissions have been made, but are not included

in the first designation order, will be considered for inclusion in a

follow-up order. The date of the follow-up order will be determined

by an assessment of the nature and level of responses received. The

follow up order will be subject to a similar review process.

Applications received after this will be considered as and when they

are received.

9. There are still several procedural matters to be set out by a

statutory instrument to provide clarity to the administration, mainly

setting out the process which local highway authorities should follow

in making diversion or closure orders using the new provisions. This

statutory instrument will be laid before parliament shortly.

10. Copies of the guidance to accompany the crime provisions are

available from Defra publications, Admail 6000, London SW1A 2XX. Tel:

08459 556000. The commencement statutory instrument, report of the

consultation exercise and the guidance are available online.

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