Free runners in Horsham town centre should be ‘seized by police and prosecuted’, according to a cabinet member.
Parkour, which involves negotiating between obstacles by climbing or jumping, is set to be banned in public spaces in the town centre under a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) approved by Horsham District Council last Wednesday (September 7).
The order also covers anti-social drinking of alcohol, anti-social use of vehicles and horse-drawn vehicles, control of dogs, and dog fouling across the district.
Anyone found guilty of breaching the PSPO without a reasonable excuse could be fined, or issued with a fixed penalty notice.
Kate Rowbottom (Con, Billingshurst and Shipley), cabinet member for community and wellbeing, said: “Anti-social behaviour is a key issue for the local community and the problems outlined in this report have been persistent and ongoing for some years.
“The only other course of action is to maintain the status quo and allow the problems to continue.”
She told councillors that shop keepers and homeowners had complained to the council about free runners, and one case saw £36,000 of damage to a building’s roof.
The PSPO was passed after an unsuccessful amendment from John Chidlow (Con, Southwater), who argued in favour of dropping the ban on parkour from the order.
He said: “To place free running, which is a defined and well-organised sport, to place it on the same level as dog fouling and dangerous driving, I really can’t accept that.”
He felt that irresponsible behaviour, rather than parkour, was the cause of criminal damage, and questioned how the order would be enforced.
Matthew French (Con, Broadbridge Heath) felt the PSPO was ‘rather woolly in many ways’ and they were in danger of being labelled the ‘fun police’.
Ben Staines (Con, Bramber, Upper Beeding and Woodmancote) argued that they did not have the evidence base to include parkour in the PSPO, but the amendment was defeated by a large majority.
The claim that the damage was caused by free runners was contested by public speaker David Witchell.
He said: “It’s something we care deeply about and we do not want to be restricted in our passion by being described as hooligans trashing our town.”
Brian Donnelly (Con, Pulborough and Coldwaltham), cabinet member for finance and assets, said: “I think it’s crazy allowing this type of thing to take place in a town like Horsham.”
He felt there were locations for this activity to take place but not on the buildings of Horsham town, where it could ‘concern our senior citizens’.
He added: “People who are doing this are totally irresponsible and should be seized by the police and prosecuted.”
After the meeting another Horsham 17-year-old free runner Callun Lavington explained that they had ‘utmost respect for the community and property’, and councillors had not discussed how carefully free runners train and how cautious they are. He added: “We are respectful to those around us and always make sure that the public’s safety is our number one concern.”
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