Dorset

Bournemouth's 'anti-homeless' bench bars removed overnight

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Media captionThe 28 bars were removed from around Bournemouth overnight

A council has removed "anti-homeless" bars from public benches overnight.

The devices to stop people lying on benches were installed by Bournemouth Borough Council at a cost of £3,650.

However, protestors including rapper Professor Green said they were "inhumane" and more than 23,000 people signed a petition for their removal.

The council confirmed all 28 were taken away on Monday night. It said it decided to act in light of "the depth of feeling" over the issue.

A video the authority published on YouTube showed the bars being removed by council workers under the cover of darkness.

It added it would "continue to support people who are homeless and at risk".

Image copyright Stuart Semple
Image caption Bars were fitted to the benches to deter people from lying on them
Image copyright Stuart Semple
Image caption Protestors covered the 28 benches with throws, cushions and balloons on Monday

Shelley Morris, from not-for-profit organisation Second Chance which works alongside the council, said: "I met with a few of our homeless guys this morning who said they witnessed the bars being taken off at 04:00.

"It's a really good thing. It's quite brave from the council to admit they made a mistake.

"The only shame is these lovely Victorian benches now have holes in them."

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Media captionProfessor Green previously filmed the "anti-homeless" bench bars being removed

The move follows a week of publicity about the bars.

Artist Stuart Semple prompted the protests by posting a photo of one of the modified benches, before Professor Green branded the bars "brutal" and "disgraceful".

Green, who last year fronted a BBC documentary on homelessness, filmed a friend removing bars from a bench on Thursday,

On Monday, protesters festooned the benches with throws, cushions and balloons before Bournemouth council announced its change of heart.

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Bournemouth Council had previously said the bars were installed following "many complaints about people lying on the benches throughout the day".

In the video the authority said it provided advice to about 1,000 homeless people each month and funds three emergency hostels for families, five youth hostels and a women's refuge.

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

And in 2015 the authority played Alvin and the Chipmunks songs and bagpipe music from speakers at Bournemouth Coach Station between midnight and 06:00.

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