MAYOR Boris Johnson has weighed into a row about spikes installed to prevent homeless people sleeping outside a London building, calling them “ugly, self-defeating and stupid”.
The Tory politician called on the developer of the building on Southwark Bridge Road, Southwark, to remove the spikes, pictures of which have gone viral on Twitter and other social media in recent days.
Writing through his @MayorofLondon Twitter account Mr Johnson also defended his record on tackling homelessness.
He tweeted: “Spikes outside Southwark housing development to deter rough sleeping are ugly, self defeating & stupid. Developer should remove them ASAP.
“We’ve spent £34 million on the likes of ‘no 2nd night out, reaching 3/4s of rough sleepers, but must do more. Spikes are simply not the answer [sic].”
An online petition calling on Mr Johnson to remove the spikes has attracted more than 5,000 signatures.
Homeless Link, which represents homelessness charities, also condemned the spikes.
Jacqui McCluskey, its director of policy and communications, said: “It’s shocking to see the use of metal spikes to discourage rough sleeping and hardly helps deal with the rising number of people who are forced to sleep on our streets.
“Many people who sleep rough just don’t know where to turn and are amongst the most vulnerable in our society. Sleeping on the streets is dangerous, bad for your health and individuals need support.
“This approach is not only inhumane, it does nothing to tackle the causes of rough sleeping and just moves the issue on for someone else to deal with.”
Housing minister Kris Hopkins said: “The actions of this developer are deplorable and deeply unpleasant, and I want to see them remove these ‘spikes’ as soon as possible - I don’t know what self-respecting architect would want to be associated with such an offensive measure.”
Southwark Council said it could look into any health and safety or planning concerns reported to it.
Councillor Peter John, the council leader, said: “Anyone who is sleeping rough deserves to be treated with compassion and respect not spikes, this is why the council has a dedicated officer working with a number of homeless charities in the borough to find them shelter and the right support.
“Southwark Council is not involved with the installation of the spikes outside of the property at 118 Southwark Bridge Road and we do not feel this is the best way to deal with the problem.
“The spikes were not part of the original planning application for the building but would be considered too small to come under planning regulations, however we will continue to see if there is anything within the council’s power to get these measures removed or an alternative solution found.”
The building at 118 is partly occupied by the British School of Osteopathy, but the spikes are next to an entrance to adjoining flats “which we may not use and have no right to manage or control”, a BSO spokeswoman said.
Principal and chief executive Charles Hunt dismissed reports linking the spikes’ installation to the BSO, which has been providing free treatment to the homeless for more than 15 years.
He said: “We are shocked that the name and reputation of the BSO has been associated with this action.
“Our commitment to supporting people who are homeless is strongly embedded within the School, and we will continue to do everything in our power to provide our free services to the people who need it.”