MORE than 27,000 people have signed a petition urging civic chiefs in Poole to abandon the controversial Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) which covers the town centre.

Poole resident Catherine Chapman, who set up the online petition, explained: “Poole council has introduced what I think is a Dickensian and heartless Public Space Protection Order.

“Homeless, vulnerable people can be fined £100 for asking for money, food etc - and this could also include being found sleeping in doorways or car parks.

“A lot of homeless people have suffered huge amounts of trauma and they are alienated and vulnerable.

“Shame on the council. They should be providing help and proper homes and caring outreach to these, our human sisters and brothers.

“Who are we to judge? Who knows what each of them has been through? Many have PTSD or have suffered mentally or emotionally in life.”

Borough of Poole’s (BOP) cabinet agreed to implement the PSPO, which covers the town centre and Holes Bay, earlier this year. It came into force on April 16.

BOP insists the order was put in place to make the areas safe and more welcoming, but they face opposition from campaigners who claim it targets rough sleepers.

However, some town centre traders have long complained of aggressive begging and associated antisocial behaviour in Poole.

The order bans begging for money, food or drink, possession of any intoxicating substance; and behaving in a way likely to cause nuisance, alarm or neglect.

Poole Labour Party, along with other community groups, organised a protest against the order when it was implemented.

The order, which many felt was a direct attack on rough sleepers, also prompted significant public backlash.

David Wood, of Help 4 Homeless Veterans, said he was disgusted by the move.

“I challenge any of Poole’s councillors to come and spend a night on the street with myself,” he said.

Cllr Karen Rampton, cabinet portfolio holder for housing and communities, said: “We have actively consulted local charities and organisations in preparing PSPOs. The new orders do not mean a complete prohibition on people who are sleeping rough and we will continue to proactively work with individuals to encourage them to use the full range of support available from the council and local charities.”

“The order will remain in place for a period of three years. Individuals who continue with anti-social behaviour when challenged by police or a council officer may be subject to a fixed penalty notice of £100. It is not the council’s intention to fine individuals as a first resort.”

The petition is available through the Care2 website.