More than 3,000 people have signed a petition launched by Childrensalon to oppose plans to hand on-the-spot fines to people begging in Tunbridge Wells.
The public are being consulted on Kent Police and Tunbridge Wells Borough Council’s (TWBC) proposals to introduce Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) to clamp down on activities that could affect ‘quality of life’.
Aimed at tackling public drinking and dog fouling, the council has argued the plans would eliminate ‘professional begging’ rather than representing an attack on the homeless.
Michele Harriman-Smith chief executive of Childrensalon, which sells children’s clothing online and is one of the town’s biggest firms, said: “This is a heartless and useless exercise that punishes a vulnerable group of people who are actually in-need of help rather than being fined.
“Now colder temperatures are here we urgently need to focus on how we can solve the issue of homelessness rather than punishing people that are begging because they have no means to live.”
Until December 17 the public have the opportunity to share thoughts on the issue by visiting the council’s website. A decision is expected to be made in the New Year.
Denise Hamilton, Childrensalon’s director of people team, said: “It is amazing how quickly it has gone viral as we only started the petition on Friday.
“We know what’s going on as we saw an article in the Times and now have 3,000 signatures and it is growing by the moment.
“We are passionate about helping the homeless.”
Staff from the firm will meet with TWBC members on November 30.
She added: “I think fining people will be useless. It is not going to solve the problem, there are people who need help – they have fallen out from their families and relationships.
“There is a huge social issue, there needs to be more housing and more support. So what good is fining them going to do?”
In response to criticism the council clarified that the PSPO legislation is aimed at tackling antisocial behaviour.
A TWBC spokesman said: “The proposal is not to prohibit begging or rough sleeping but to deal with it very carefully and with discretion.
“We quite understand that there is no point in fining someone who has no money. People who are genuinely homeless or in need will be encouraged to engage with agencies who are in a position to help them.”
You can the petition and sign up by visiting www.change.org/o/childrensalon
To view the council’s consultation, visit consult.tunbridgewells.gov.uk and search for Public Spaces Protection Order.