Housing

Council's £200,000 plan to block off arches used by rough sleepers slammed as 'tarting up' city

The budget for covering arches used by rough sleepers near Bradford's Forster Square station could reach £200,000, the Big Issue can reveal

Arches by Bradford's Forster Square station

The council is citing "anti-social behaviour" as the reason for covering the arches. Image: Google

A council has been accused of “tarting up” a station with £200,000 plans to put steel panels over arches used as shelter by rough sleepers.

Bradford Council is carrying out work, funded by Network Rail, to cover 10 arches outside Forster Square station. Planned after the council decided “anti-social behaviour has become an issue”, the Big Issue can reveal the budget for the work could reach £200,000.

But the plans have drawn ire from the leader of a local homelessness charity. “As usual, Bradford Council has got it wrong again,” John Tempest, director of Bradford Soup Run, told the Big Issue.

“What steps have been taken to ensure that those who will be evicted will be helped into housing, and shouldn’t they have done this first?

“Just think how much good could’ve been done with the £200,000 they’ve earmarked for tarting up Forster Square in preparation for the City of Culture.”

Information disclosed to the Big Issue through a Freedom of Information request revealed the budget for works – covering “screen panels, gates, lighting, general condition improvements to the location, design team professional fees and maintenance” – has “been agreed with Network Rail to not exceed £200,000”. However, the council refused to disclose the precise estimated costs.

Bradford Council said its outreach teams visited the arches every day to offer support to those sleeping rough.

Cities across the UK have attracted controversy for installing “hostile architecture”. One tour in Manchester offers a glimpse at the locked gates, covered shelters and removed benches which exclude rough sleepers from public spaces.

The X account Hostile Design chronicles the measures taken by local authorities across the globe, from counterintuitive benches to spikes over flower beds.

A Bradford Council spokesperson told the Big Issue: “Helping people off the streets is a key priority for the council all year round. The support we offer ranges from emergency accommodation to planned moves into permanent, supported accommodation, resulting in successful long-term tenancies, alongside improvements to people’s health and financial stability, and the re-establishing of relationships.

“The arches by Forster Square are visited on a daily basis by the council’s homeless outreach service to offer support and assistance to anyone who needs it. The council will continue to work with homelessness agencies and local charities to ensure those currently using the arches have the support they need to address health and wellbeing issues and access accommodation.

“As part of improvements to Bradford Forster Square station including an additional platform, the condition of the arches outside the station is also being addressed. Network Rail, who owns the arches, has agreed to fund a scheme for Bradford Council to further enhance the area with new lighting and greater security following ongoing reports of anti-social behaviour, to create a much-improved public realm.”

Network Rail declined to comment, but confirmed it is funding the work.

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