Britain’s most popular seaside resort has been accused of “criminalising” types of clothing after it said it planned to press ahead with plans to outlaw provocatively dressed hen and stag parties from the centre of Blackpool during the day.
Despite its longstanding kiss me quick image, drunken bachelor packs dressed in mankinis or bridal parties clad in revealing uniforms as they brave the chilly winds off the Irish Sea, has prompted concerns that the phenomenon is threatening the resort’s image as a family destination.
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) which came into operation today.
Announcing the authority’s intention Councillor Gillian Campbell, who is responsible for public safety for Blackpool Council said the town had no intention of outlawing hen and stag parties which bring millions of pounds into the local economy each year.
She said PSPOs would operate alongside community protection notices to clamp down on rogue businesses which also came into effect under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.
“We are very keen on those (PSPOs) for our town centre to ban what a lot of people would class as anti-social behaviour - things like street drinking, public nudity. We have a lot of stags and hens that come to Blackpool.
“Now obviously we are keen for that to happen but we probably will ask them that rather dress in the costumes they have maybe to leave that to a certain point at night when there are no families around,” she told BBC Radio Lancashire.
Blackpool is one of a number of destinations including Brighton, Bournemouth and York which has wrestled with ways of controlling the excesses of the pre-marital rituals.
But Josie Appleton of civil liberties group the Manifesto Club, said the use of the new orders was a worryingly authoritarian development which bypassed local democratic accountability.
Using the orders, police will be able to fine individuals £100 if they are deemed to be acting in a manner that has a “detrimental effect on the quality of life”.
Critics say they can be drawn up by a council official or committee and could be used to outlaw gatherings of homeless people, busking, begging, smoking or even cars dropping off children too close to school.
“The trouble with these powers is that they are completely open-ended and a blank cheque. Local authorities can write anything on it that they potentially don’t like or someone wants to ban. This criminalises clothing that council officials don’t like,” Ms Appleton said.
“They can be targeted at particular people and say that you must do something or forbid you from doing something. The police already have very wide ranging powers to deal with drunk and disorderly behaviour. Public order laws are already very broad and can deal with anything that causes distress,” she added.
Photographer Dougie Wallace, author of the book Stags, Hens and Bunnies: A Blackpool Story, who spent three years chronicling partygoers at the Lancashire resort, said the town had long been a magnet for fun seekers. "It has always been the place to go and let your hair down. It is really a celebration of life and working class culture. I don't see how it can be enforced or who should decide whether someone is showing too much skin. It must already be covered with indecency laws," he added.
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