NEW laws to prevent "intimidating" levels of drunkenness, rough sleeping and begging have been proposed for Banbury town centre.

A Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) could be introduced with the aim of cutting down on anti-social behaviour and making the town more pleasant for people who live, work and visit there.

It follows an increase in complaints from people walking through the town centre over the last two years.

The order would give police greater powers to arrest and fine people who they believe are drinking heavily or showing other anti-social behaviour.

Cherwell District Council lead member for public protection Tony Ilott stressed the issues were probably being caused by about half a dozen people, and there was not necessarily "trouble around every corner."

Speaking at the council's executive meeting on Monday, he said: "Within the town centre area this order will prevent drunkenness, sleeping rough and begging. We have decided that action needs to be taken.

"There are some people who genuinely are not homeless. If we remove them the ones in genuine help will become clear."

According to Thames Valley Police, from July 2014 to February this year there have been 56 reports of begging in the town centre.

In the same time period there have been 57 reports of drinking and anti-social behaviour and six reports of people sleeping rough.

A report, compiled by the district council's Safer Communities Manager Mike Grant, said areas around St Mary's Church had attracted late night drinkers and rough sleepers.

It also said drunken men had been regularly seen by the Yorkshire Bank in High Street during the daytime. There has been evidence to suggest drug abuse by rough sleepers, in the area of St Mary's Church, Peoples Park and the People's Church, due to the high number of needles being found lying around.

Banbury Ruscote councillor Sean Woodcock said the problems were "an eyesore for people seeing this kind of thing going on in Banbury."

Councillor Nicholas Turner added: "It does create an image of the town that can be intimidating for people."

PSPOs can be in force for any period up to three years, after which it can be reviewed.

Earlier this year an order was put in place for Oxford, which prohibits "aggressive" begging, cycling in Queen Street or Cornmarket Street outside of 6pm to 10am, remaining in a public toilet without reasonable excuse, failing to control dogs or not handing over alcohol when asked to do so by officers.

These behaviours are punishable by a fixed penalty notice.

A five-week consultation will now be carried out, giving residents the chance to have their say on what activities should be covered by the order.

Details of the consultation, including how to respond, are yet to be announced.