A Peterborough city centre church is taking action to stop rough sleepers gathering in its porch.
Agents for the 15th century St John the Baptist Church, in Church Street, say some of the rough sleepers are abusive to staff, use the porch as a toilet and as a storage place for sleeping bags and other belongings.
They say the aggressive behaviour of the rough sleepers is a safety risk to members of the public as well as church staff.
The problem has become noticeably worse during the Covid-19 pandemic, which has seen a rise in the number of rough sleepers using the porch.
Now the church has secured permission to put up a new metal gate at the west entrance to its North Porch to deter rough sleepers from congregating in the entrance, which is also used as an emergency exit from the premises.
Approval to install a gate at the grade one listed church was granted by Peterborough City Council.
In a statement with the application, the church agents, Oliver Architecture, explain the gate is needed because ‘rough sleepers have taken occupation of the North Porch’.
It goes on: “ As well as creating an extremely unpleasant aspect, the aggressive behaviour of the rough sleepers is a safety risk to members of the public and church staff.
It adds: “It has become apparent that anti-social behaviour on the north side has increased during the current pandemic.
The church states the rough sleepers are “sleeping in the Porch, using it to store belongings and using the adjacent areas as a toilet.
It adds: “The North Porch door is the location for opening and locking up the church, so must be safely accessible to staff.
"It is also one of the main emergency exits from the church.”
Recommending approval for the church’s application, the council’s conservation officer states: “The space is not used and the wish to create defensible space to reduce anti-social behavior is understood.
“From a heritage consideration the proposed works can be supported
The officer adds: “It is considered that the work will not have an adverse impact on the character and appearance of the listed building.”