Street drinking in Huntingdon town centre will become a criminal offence from today (Wednesday) in a landmark move for the county.

The first Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) in Cambridgeshire has been issued for the area inside the ring road which prohibits drinking or being in possession of an open container of alcohol.

It also makes it an offence to act in a manner which causes alarm, harassment or distress as a result of drinking alcohol.

Those who break the new rules could be fined £100 or risk prosecution.

The order - which replaces Designated Public Place Orders - will be enforced by police officers and PCSOs, as well as officers from Huntingdonshire District Council.

It will last for up to three years and follows an increasing number of complaints about drinking received by police and HDC.

While a spokesman for HDC said that street drinking in Huntingdon significantly affects retailers, residents and visitors, it was not previously an offence so the police were left powerless to tackle the behaviour.

Police made a request for the legislation to HDC, and, after consultation and consideration by its licensing and protection panel, the PSPO was given the green light under the new powers in the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.

Chris Stopford, head of community services, said: "HDC, in partnership with Cambridgeshire Police, is committed to maintaining Huntingdonshire as a safe place to live, work and visit and anti-social behaviour will not be tolerated.

"Where incidents of anti-social behaviour are reported, we can use the new tools and powers available to us under the 2014 Act and work with partner agencies to achieve a positive outcome for our communities."

Sergeant Aaron Murphy, from Huntingdon Problem Solving Team, said: "We have worked exceptionally hard alongside HDC, speaking with and gaining evidence from local residents and businesses.

"The PSPO will provide officers greater ability to deal with problematic individuals in tackling alcohol related anti-social behaviour, and I am confident that the use of the new powers will ensure that Huntingdon town centre remains a safe place to live, work, and visit as a result."

The already instated DPPOs for Quayside, Warners Park and Wheatfields Recreation Area in St Ives will remain in place until October 2017. After this time, they will become defunct and HDC will decide if a PSPO is necessary.

HDC has also started the process of looking into a PSPO for the Oxmoor estate, but a spokesman said that people are not reporting incidents and evidence is needed. The Oxmoor Working Group, a sub-group of the Huntingdonshire Community Safety Partnership, will meet tonight (Wednesday) to discuss the issue.

INFORMATION: For more, contact Claudia Deeth, community safety team leader at HDC on 01480 388233 or claudia.deeth@huntingdonshire.gov.uk.