LEGAL action against BCP Council over its controversial “begging ban” in Poole has been dropped.

Human Rights organisation Liberty has closed its challenge over the PSPO (public spaces protection order) after the council agreed to withdraw the most contentious of its clauses in September.

The move has been welcomed by Poole campaigner Sarah Ward, who brought the challenge. She said the order was “neither a legitimate nor fair” way to treat rough sleepers.

The now-abolished Poole council introduced the PSPO in 2018 which it said would help tackle issues of anti-social behaviour in the town centre.

But the move drew strong criticism, particularly due to causes which prohibited obstructing doorways, leaving belongings unattended and “loitering” in a public place collecting money.

Powers provided under the PSPO had been used three times, with only one fine issued.

Ms Ward began the process of taking legal action against it after the order was adopted and, in October last year, filed a High Court claim supported by Liberty.

This was paused earlier this year when the previous Unity Alliance BCP Council administration launched a consultation over the order and in September its cabinet agreed to remove the contentious clauses, despite opposition from the then Conservative opposition.

Councillor Drew Mellor, whose opposition group took control of the council less than a month after the decision, said he would not reverse the decision.

In the wake of this, Ms Ward and Liberty have now agreed to close their High Court challenge.

“I’m pleased the council has seen sense and agreed to change this broken approach without us needing to go to through the time, heartache and expense of a final hearing,” Ms Ward said.

“Being homeless should not be treated as a crime and we can now focus on trying to provide the support people need.”

She said she hoped other local authorities using PSPOs would now follow in the footsteps of BCP Council.

Liberty lawyer Lara ten Caten said the removal of the clauses was “a victory for fairness, dignity and respect”.

“If you’re rough sleeping or begging, that isn’t a lifestyle choice, that’s poverty,” she said. “Instead of addressing the complex issues underlying homelessness, too many councils have resorted to blunt powers to punish poverty and push poor people out of sight.”

She added that PSPOs were “ripe for abuse” and should be scrapped nationwide.