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Rebellious plaques situated on benches in Chester

Protest against the Public Space Protection Order branded 'offensive' by Cheshire West and Chester council

A plaque situated on a bench in Chester city centre aims to raise awareness of homelessness

Rebellious plaques have been situated on benches in Chester with the intention of highlighting Cheshire West and Chester Council’s 'draconian plans' to introduce a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO).

Two street artists have placed the plaques on benches across Chester city centre 'in good grace' to raise awareness of the plight of homelessness in the city.

The proposed Public Space Protection Order aims to address antisocial behaviour issues that are having an impact on residents, businesses and visitors across Chester city centre.

Cllr Nicole Meardon, cabinet member for children and families, previously said the aim is to ensure everyone can enjoy public spaces, and protect some of the most vulnerable groups.

A more humorous plaque situated on a bench in Chester city centre
A more humorous plaque situated on a bench in Chester city centre

But more than 17,000 have now signed two online petitions against the plans after fears they would target the socially vulnerable in the city.

Among the scourges already in the sights of the Labour-led Cheshire West and Chester Council are legal highs, street drinking, rough sleeping, begging, busking and feeding birds. The idea is backed by the Tory opposition.

One of the plaques put up by the artists say: “If you shut your eyes for more than ten seconds whilst on this bench, you may be deemed asleep, and risk facing an ASBO. By Order of Public Space Protection Orders under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.”

A more humorous plaque says: “This bench is dedicated to the men who lost the will to live whilst following their partners around the shoe shops of Chester.”

A draft order reveals transgressors face a maximum £100 fixed penalty notice or a fine of up to £1,000 on conviction at court if they continue with banned activities within the designated zone when asked to desist.

A man who works with street artists, who wished to remain anonymous, said: "Such draconian plans would be used to target the homeless and socially vulnerable.

A plaque situated on a bench in Chester city centre aims to raise awareness of homelessness
A plaque situated on a bench in Chester city centre aims to raise awareness of homelessness

“For example the PSPO would make it a criminal offence to lie down in a public place or feed the swans on the canal.

“The diverse nature of Chester’s street performers would also be under threat with buskers forced to play only in designated areas and also to undergo auditions to gain approval from the council to allow them to play in public.”

Related: Chester animal lover would break law to feed ducks this winter

He added: “The plaques dotted around the city centre and by the river should bring a smile to many people’s faces until the PSPO bans smiling in a public place too and the council remove them.”

One of the artists who created the plaques, said: “This was all done in good grace and with no malice or thought of financial gain.

“We just hope the residents and visitors of Chester enjoyed them while they could.”

The plaques have now been removed and Maria Byrne, head of place operations for Cheshire West and Chester Council, said taxpayers money has been used to take them down.

She said: “We have removed the plaques from five benches and although they may appear humorous, some people may find them offensive.

“It has cost the Council taxpayer money for officers to locate and remove them.

“If anyone knows who is responsible we would like to hear from them.”

One of the artists who created the plaques, said: “This was all done in good grace and with no malice or thought of financial gain.”

The proposed Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) consultation ended yesterday. 15 O

A more humorous plaque situated on a bench in Chester city centre
A more humorous plaque situated on a bench in Chester city centre

Related: Comedian Mark Thomas leads Chester PSPO protest 'lying-down' in city centre

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