Opinion: 'Time for action on blight of city centre street drinkers', writes Peterborough MP Paul Bristow

Peterborough MP Paul Bristow talks Westminster Life in his latest column for the Peterborough Telegraph.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 4th August 2022, 3:39 pm
Updated Thursday, 4th August 2022, 3:43 pm

I’m proud of Peterborough, including all of the investment heading towards our city but there are some things about the city centre that make me angry.

More often than not, this has nothing to do with bricks and mortar, and everything to do with how a minority of people choose to behave.I am fed up of the group of street drinkers usurping the benches in Cathedral Square.

They are there in the afternoon, when families are out with their children. They are still there in the evening, when people are using the restaurants. They were back again, mid-morning, when I was at meeting in a local coffee shop.

Peterborough MP Paul Bristow said he is "fed up" with street drinkers in Cathedral Square (image: David Lowndes/Getty)

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Worse, they seem to be permanently intoxicated. It is unacceptable for them to drag Peterborough down in this way, making our central space unpleasant for everyone else.

Obviously, this group will have some serious, individual problems. Addiction brings those problems, rather than causing them. At a very human level, however, they have my sympathy.

On the other hand, those problems don’t justify their disregard of everyone else. Their personal problems don’t make their behaviour excusable.

There is already a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) covering the city centre, which allows street drinking to be tackled. So where is the enforcement? Why is this group allowed to sit there drinking, day after day?

All too often, a squeamishness takes hold of the professionals whose job it should be to take action. They are either afflicted by “guilt” or just find it all too sensitive and difficult.

Those less fortunate and more affected are also more robust. I know whose side I’m on, not least because action is ultimately best for the street drinkers.

They are drinking themselves into dysfunctionality and an early grave. They aren’t helpless victims of social injustice. They are addicts.It isn’t kind or right to be tolerant of their behaviour.

By ending this antisocial, Cathedral Square lifestyle, our city becomes a better place and some, at least, may get the jolt they need to get on a better path. Support is available.

I have made my feelings plain to the Council and the Police. They are responding positively. I am looking forward to regular updates, an enforcement plan and a meeting programme to report on progress.

I am determined to try to improve the situation in Cathedral Square. I also fully accept that this is an issue in other parts of our city, particularly in and around Lincoln Road.

Action on street drinkers should be a priority across Peterborough. Turning a blind eye is bad for everyone. And tolerating the unacceptable just allows things to get worse.It’s time to root it out.