In Depth

Bournemouth ‘anti-homeless’ bars on benches to be removed

Council U-turn comes after weeks of criticism for measures to stop rough sleeping

Bournemouth Borough Council has said it will remove “anti-homeless” bars from benches after receiving “extensive feedback”.

The decision comes after mounting criticism of the metal bars with protestors including rapper Professor Green condemning them as “inhumane”, “brutal” and “disgraceful”.

The council said it had fitted the devices to stop people lying on the benches and preventing others from sitting down.

But in a statement the councillor responsible for housing, Bob Lawton, revealed they were to be removed saying: “The decision last summer to install the bars on a very small number of benches in key select locations in the town centre was made by a multi-agency operational group, chaired by the council and attended by the police, rough sleeper team and the town centre BID.”

“The decision was taken in response to many complaints about people lying on them throughout the day, meaning that wider members of the community were unable to use them to sit on.

“However we have listened to the extensive feedback over the last week and in light of the depth of feeling, have today reviewed that decision and agreed to have the bars removed.”

The bars, which cost more than £3,000 to install, “have become a PR disaster for the town which has been in the media spotlight over its homeless policies for nearly three weeks,” says the Bournemouth Echo.

17,000 people signed a petition calling for them to be removed while over the weekend, Bournemouth MP Tobias Ellwood, who was sleeping out to publicise the plight of homeless veterans, said the council should look at: “The deeper, more complicated picture, rather than saying ‘no you cannot go to this bench or that bench’.“

It’s not the first time Bournemouth has faced criticism for their treatment of rough sleepers.

In June 2016 the council “bought one-way train tickets for rough sleepers to help move them out the area,” reports the BBC.

While “in 2015 the authority played Alvin and the Chipmunks songs and bagpipe music from speakers at Bournemouth Coach Station between midnight and 06:00,” adds the broadcaster.

The council said it spent £10m on homelessness measures each year and “continues to maintain that as a society we should be aiming far higher than a bench for people to sleep on”.

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