Councils to crackdown on substance abuse

Published: Tuesday, 28 September 2021

New powers have been introduced to tackle the use of psychoactive substances and ‘legal highs’, such as nitrous oxide, linked to anti-social behaviour.

Concerns had been raised locally about the use of nitrous oxide – sometimes known as 'laughing gas' – particularly regarding the little silver canisters, often left behind in parks and other public spaces, as well as the dangers of misusing such substances.

In a joint initiative, Harborough District Council and Oadby and Wigston Borough Council have introduced a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) prohibiting the use of psychoactive substances in public places. Breaking the order would be a criminal offence, and could result in a fixed penalty notice of £100 or prosecution.

The move follows a public consultation in May, by both Councils, which saw 82 per cent of respondents in Harborough district in favour of the new powers, and 78 per cent of people in favour in Oadby and Wigston Borough.

Eye-catching signage and posters will now be displayed in public places advising people about the new powers and the penalties.

Cllr Simon Whelband, Harborough District Council’s Cabinet lead on community safety, said: "We are tackling this issue head on and responding to the concerns of our residents. They told us they wanted more to be done to deal with this serious issue and these new powers do exactly that. This is a great example of joint-working with Police, and a neighbouring local authority, and I am hopeful the PSPO will make a positive difference to the environment, and potentially save lives.”

Cllr Kevin Loydall, Chair of the Oadby and Wigston Community Safety Partnership, said: “The discovery of small silver canisters and the anti-social behaviour associated with use of them has, become an all-to-common occurrence for local residents in our borough. The Borough Council’s consultation showed that local people wanted us to take a tougher stance and working with partners at Harborough and Leicestershire Police to introduce this PSPO has given us the opportunity to do just that.”

Inspector Jim Purdie, commander for the Harborough and Wigston Neighbourhood Policing Area (NPA), said: “Our officers will continue carrying out routine patrols in areas where we believe psychoactive substances are being used. We are grateful for the support from our local authority partners. The PSPOs will act as a deterrent to anyone using such substances and will also allow officers to deal with offenders by way of issuing a fixed penalty notice. I would encourage anyone with information or concerns to continue reporting matters to us or their local council.”

There are already two PSPOs in operation across the Harborough district, one for dog fouling and one for alcohol related anti-social behaviour in Market Harborough and Lutterworth town centres. Oadby and Wigston also has a dog fouling PSPO in place.

Harborough District Council approved the new PSPO on 27 September 2021, and Oadby and Wigston Borough Council approved it on 13 July 2021.

Get advice on nitrous oxide and other psychoactive substances online.