COUNTY NEWS: Thousands sign petition against 'anti-homeless' benches

The benches in Brighton (Photograph: Daniel Harris)
The benches in Brighton (Photograph: Daniel Harris)

A petition to remove 'anti-homeless' benches in Sussex has attracted the support of more than 3,000 people in under 24 hours.

The petition was set up by housing campaigner Daniel Harris yesterday afternoon (March 1) after he discovered the benches in Edward Street, Brighton.

Mr Harris said the benches were 'clearly designed and chosen for one reason – to keep away rough sleepers'.

Similar benches hit the headlines last month, when British rapper Professor Green was filmed removing bars from seats in Bournemouth.

But it's not clear which organisation installed the seats.

Brighton and Hove City Council's lead member for homelessness denies the benches were installed by the local authority, but the First Base, the developer of the old Amex headquarters on Edward Street, said it had nothing to with them either.

Lucinda Mitchell, project director for First Base said: "We have no knowledge of who is responsible for the benches in the vicinity of our Edward street development site. We only became aware when this was brought to our attention on March 1, and we are liaising closely with the council and other local partners regarding this issue.”

And the council's lead member for homelessness Cllr Clare Moonan, said: "These are not council benches and are not on council land. We have no control over this private space. We do not have a policy of installing benches that are anti rough sleepers!!"

At the last count in November 2017, it was estimated that 178 people were sleeping rough on the streets of Brighton and Hove, giving the city the second largest homeless population after Westminster.

A Brighton and Hove City Council spokesperson said: "The benches highlighted in the petition being shared online were not installed by the council and are not on council owned land.

"No council benches are installed with an 'anti-homeless' intent as alleged recently on social media. The council has made tackling rough sleeping and protecting the vulnerable a priority.

"A range of bench types are installed by the council across the city to meet the different needs of residents and visitors.

"Some benches are designed to aid people with mobility issues.

"The City Parks team is looking at best practice for benches as part of the Open Spaces Strategy and will take into consideration the needs of people with mobility issues such as bench height, upright backs and armrests (at present only about 10 per cent of benches have armrests in Brighton and Hove). This work will include input from disability specialists and comparisons with other local authorities."

To view the petition, click here.