Old Steine tent described as Homeless Bill of Rights ‘test case’

A TENT pitched on a city-centre green has been described as a “test case” for a Homeless Bill of Rights agreed earlier this year.

The tent in Steine Gardens, Brighton, was put up on Monday with a nearby business demanding the test be “removed swiftly”.

The manager of the business, who asked not to be named, emailed the council – and all of its councillors – saying the tent breaches rules governing the use of the gardens.

However, some councillors believe the agreement of a Homeless Bill of Rights in March may mean that council officials would not have the political backing to remove it, or any other similar tent.

Independent councillor Tony Janio replied to the email saying: “Have you seen the film Mad Max? Maybe you will be experiencing it for real pretty soon.”

The Argus previously reported on tents being pitched on the same city centre green.

In August last year, residents claimed they were facing daily battles with drug use, human waste and litter from people who have set up camp in the area.

However, this is reportedly the first time the city-centre green has seen a tent since the introduction of the bill, which Greens voted for, the Tories against and Labour split.

The bill, which gives protection to people living inside tents, was agreed earlier this year after a 2,500 signature petition to Brighton and Hove City Council calling for its adoption.

The bill ensures rights which include the right to survival practices – to seek support through begging or foraging, as well as respect for personal property – to have tents and sleeping bags left and not removed or thrown away.

At the time there were concerns that people would be encouraged to pitch tents and beg if passed.

The Argus: The tent was reportedly pitched on the Old Steine on MondayThe tent was reportedly pitched on the Old Steine on Monday

Speaking to The Argus, councillor Mary Mears, Conservative housing spokeswoman, said: “This will be a test case for the council.

“Do they enforce a policy which should be enforced, or do they go with the Homeless Bill of Rights.

“We voted against it as we could see all sorts of problems.”

Labour said the Homeless Bill of Rights aims to “protect homeless people, not tents” and that is not yet known whether those inside are homeless.

Those camping at the Old Steine site last year were discovered to be revellers enjoying a trip to the seaside.

Co-leader of the local Labour group, councillor John Allcock, said: “The Homeless Bill of Rights does not give more rights to homeless people than anyone else, it simply tries to ensure that the rights they have are fully respected. It does not give homeless people the right to break the law, or to engage in anti-social behaviour.

“The Homeless Bill of Rights says simply that homeless people should be treated as citizens, with dignity and respect. In the case of tents, it says that we should not confiscate them ‘without compelling need’. Our first step, then, should always be to find out if the residents are homeless, and if so to try and help them, whether by offering them shelter or otherwise, and to achieve an outcome that protects them as well as nearby residents.”

When contacted, a council spokesman said officials had gone down to the area but could not find the tent.

Cllr Mary Mears said the tent was still at the site when she visited at 1.30pm yesterday.

The council did not comment further.

The Argus | Brighton and Hove news