Benches removed from public space in Belfast city centre used by rough sleepers

The benches have been removed by Belfast City Council as part of "general improvements". Picture by Mal McCann 

BENCHES have been removed from a public space in Belfast city centre used by rough sleepers.

Belfast City Council said it had taken away the benches from Jubilee Square, at the junction of Victoria Street and High Street, as part of "general improvements" aimed at reducing "any potential for anti-social behaviour".

While the concrete slabs remain in place at either side, the wooden slats used to make seating have been cut off.

The move follows complaints to the council from businesses and members of the public about anti-social behaviour and crowds gathering in the area.

The Met Office has also issued weather warnings for snow, ice and strong winds as Storm Caroline hits Ireland and Britain today.  

In 2015, an anonymous group placed a 'hi-pod (homeless intelligent pod)' in Jubilee Square. Offering temporary shelter for those who sleep rough, the pod came equipped with a light, mobile phone charger and a radio.

Belfast City Council said the removal of the benches was designed to discourage crowds from gathering in the area. Picture by Mal McCann

Those behind the project said the shelter did not require planning permission as it was "portable" and described it as "providing a bit of humanity to people who have to face the trauma of being homeless".

Belfast City Council removed the shelter, citing health and safety concerns, sparking an online petition and a social media outcry.

How the benches looked before the council moved in

The matter was also discussed by councillors before the group decided to permanently remove the unit - which they had re-instated without council permission - themselves, saying the experiment was "designed to be temporary".

A council spokeswoman said: "The benches (slats) have been removed from Jubilee Square as part of general improvements and landscaping to reduce any potential for anti-social behaviour, and to discourage groups of people congregating in the area."

The area is used by rough sleepers. Picture by Mal McCann

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