POSTERS have gone up warning of a ban on begging, rogue charity collectors and heavy drinkers as part of a controversial plan to turn around the fortunes of Southend town centre.

Southend Council has started placing the posters to warn of new restrictions to crack crime and antisocial behaviour in the heart of the town.

The restrictions will form part of a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO), although a formal date has not yet been set for its introduction.

The town centre and seafront, between Thorpe Bay and Westcliff, will make up most of the ‘restricted zone’ but Southchurch Hall Gardens, Hamlet Court Road and York Road, will also be included.

Inside the area, fines of £100 will be handed out to anyone caught begging, sleeping on the street in a “detrimental” manner, taking drugs, or “behaving in an antisocial manner” while drinking alcohol.

Anyone who fails to pay the fine risks being taken to court and forced to pay up to £1,000.

Martin Terry, cabinet member for community safety, said: “The PSPO will be used to tackle persistent and unreasonable antisocial behaviour, such as aggressive begging and street drinking, in some of the busiest areas of our town.

“Since the PSPO was agreed, an implementation phase has begun, with preparations and training ongoing to make sure appropriate processes are in place so the order is used effectively.

“This includes putting up appropriate signage. The PSPO is not going to solve all the challenges we face. However, it is an extra enforcement tool to tackle anti-social behaviour.”

However, Josie Appleton, director of the freedom group, the Manifesto Club, said: “This order gives carte blanche to council officers to fine homeless people, and to confiscate the alcohol as they see fit.

“The homeless activities defined as ‘detrimental’ - such as sleeping in doorways, putting up tents, begging, or occasionally leaving bedding unattended - severely restrict homeless people’s ability to feed themselves and survive outside in cold weather.”

“If homeless people are committing crimes they should of course be held to account, but their daily necessities of living should not be criminalised.”

The council says that it is not targeting the homeless, and yet their order will prevent people from making money to live, from staying warm in winter, and from maintaining bedding.”