People are being asked for their views on the introduction of new powers to reduce anti-social behaviour in Bolton town centre.
Bolton Council is considering applying for a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) to cover the entire town centre.
The authority wants to take action to make the centre safer after concerns raised by businesses and shoppers about issues such as drink-fuelled anti-social behaviour and aggressive begging.
If approved, the PSPO will give the council and Greater Manchester Police more powers to deal with anti-social activities.
Executive Cabinet Member of Environmental Services, Cllr Nick Peel, said: “Bolton town centre is a great place to visit, shop and as part of our town centre masterplan we are making even more investment in it.
“But we recognise that there are issues here – like other town centres in the country – that we need to tackle.
“What we are looking at doing with the PSPO is making our centre safer and a more pleasant place for anyone who visits, lives or works here.
“It is vital in order to support local businesses and to ensure that people are not deterred from visiting.”
The proposed PSPO would cover the town centre and surrounding areas including the Market Place Shopping Centre, the retail park on Trinity Street, and up to Deane Road.
Market Place Centre Manager, Nikki Wilson-Cook, said: “At Market Place, the safety, security and overall enjoyment of our customers is paramount.
“An initiative such as a PSPO would go a long way to ensure that Bolton was a much more pleasant place to be for those who live and work in the town, as well as improving perceptions of those just passing through.”
Shoppers, businesses, landlords, community representatives and residents will now be consulted on issues such as: consumption of alcohol on street; consumption of intoxicating substances; soliciting for money in the street; peddling, and aggressive begging.
The proposed zone would also look to limit the use of skateboards and scooters (excluding the skate park) and it would restrict the use of bicycles in the main pedestrian areas.
The order would enable the council to introduce restrictions and crack down on problematic behaviour to make sure that people can enjoy the space safely.
A PSPO lasts for three years and failure to comply with an order can result in a fixed penalty notice of up to £100 or the individuals may face prosecution.
Cllr Peel added: “The PSPO area we have chosen is in line with police and council information, and will provide us with more solutions to tackle anti-social behaviour.
“A survey* we did last year highlighted that one fifth of the respondents felt there had been an increase in aggressive begging over the last few years and we need to address this.
“We need to be clear - we are absolutely committed to helping vulnerable people and the council will not target anyone who is genuinely homeless.
“A PSPO would enable us to tackle those who make a nuisance, take advantage of people’s generosity or try to make a living through aggressive begging, or overly strong promotion of their products or services.
“We want people to give their feedback and thoughts on our proposals and we will consider all the responses before any decisions are made.
“We and our partners are committed to improving the quality of life for residents, businesses and visitors to the town centre.”
Chief Executive of Urban Outreach, Dave Bagley, said: “We are committed to working in partnership with Bolton Council to deliver a service to those people who are vulnerable and in need.
“We work closely with the council and other partners to try and reach those people who might miss out on help.
“Unfortunately it is the case that often people behind things like aggressive begging are usually not those who are most in need.
“We will continue to support those who are genuinely vulnerable and in need on the streets of Bolton.”
The consultation is available online and will run until August 17.
Following the consultation, a final proposal for the PSPO will be considered in Autumn.