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Homeless now face threat from 'hostile architecture' A city centre shop has taken steps to stop homeless people sheltering outside it. THOMAS DEACON reports.

IT MAY look like any other cosmetic upgrade to a shopfront on one of Cardiff's busiest streets. But new railings installed outside the Tesco Express on St Mary Street are now blocking a place homeless people would shelter and ask passers-by for change.

The addition comes as the Welsh Assembly has discussed the use of "hostile architecture" after calls for it to be banned across the country.

A petition was submitted by the People Over Profit group who collected 120 signatures.

A letter by the group to the committee said: "It is a system of displacing what many business and local authorities see as 'surplus humanity', hiding the homeless from public view essentially to improve a location's aesthetic and economic value at the expense of the wellbeing of some of the most vulnerable in our communities."

It adds that hostile environments put a "direct threat" to homeless people's lives, increases crime and is an "act of social violence" against them.

The letter adds: "At the end of the day, no-one should have to sleep on benches and doorways, however this is the reality of many people in Wales and we must respond in a caring manner rather than seek to hide people or by inaction allow local authorities or businesses to do so."

The petitions committee decided yesterday to ask the Minister for Housing and Local Government, Julie James AM, to clarify the planning application rules around the use of hostile architecture.

A letter by Ms James in response to the petition said many hostile architecture features could be installed post-construction and may not be subject to planning controls.

Examples of "hostile architecture" have been spotted across the UK.

Rapper Professor Green criticised benches installed in Bournemouth that had a metal bar installed across the middle of them to stop people sleeping on them.

But a lot of hostile architecture in our cities is often unnoticed, from curved benches to arm rests on benches.

Some homeless charities have also heard anecdotal evidence of businesses using "spraying" where they wet doorsteps with chemicals or water and in the process wet the belongings of homeless people.

A Tesco spokesman said the landlord of the property decided to install the fencing and it was not involved.

According to the Land Registry the freehold of the first floor of 26-27 St Mary Street is owned by Transworld Real Estate Limited. Repeated efforts have been made to contact the Pontcanna-based company.

Chief executive of Wales' leading homelessness and rough sleeping charity, The Wallich, Lindsay Cordery-Bruce, said: "The Wallich is concerned about the growing amount of hostile architecture in urban environments and its effect on people experiencing homelessness. We disagree with any infrastructure that makes life more difficult for already vulnerable people.

"Anti-homelessness infrastructure only serves to push people onto the peripheries; it is not a solution for social change. Long-term strategies such as prevention, tailored support and innovative housing solutions should be the priority "If the intention is genuine - bench barriers for example are sometimes said to aid mobility - then planners need to recognise the effects their structures could have on people who are homeless and incorporate them into their impact assessments. We'd be happy to offer insight from our experts and provide access to the opinions of the people we support on how to make cities more inclusive and less hostile."

A Welsh Government spokeswoman said: "We are investing over PS30m to help tackle and prevent homelessness and rough sleeping, including supporting people off the streets.

"While the specific design of street furniture is a matter for local authorities, we await the committee's correspondence on this matter."

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<B The Tesco Express store in St Mary Street, Cardiff, has installed railings Rob Browne
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 6, 2019
Words:620
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