COUNCILLORS have voted through controversial plans which could see beggars hit with court fines of up to £1,000.

Worthing Borough Council has agreed to introduce three Public Space Protection Orders across the borough.

The orders will target street drinkers in Worthing, begging in the town centre and rough sleeping in various locations in Worthing.

Scores of campaigners opposed to the proposals gathered outside Worthing Town Hall ahead of the meeting in a protest organised by the local Labour group.

Almost 14,000 people have signed a petition against the new orders claiming they criminalise the homeless and stoke up prejudices against them.

The new orders will give police and council officers the power to issue the homeless and street drinkers in the town a £50 on-the-spot fine or a £1,000 court fine if they refuse to leave the town centre.

A Worthing Borough council statement after last night’s vote said: “The council were clear that the PSPOs were proposed as part of a wider programme to tackle anti-social behaviour, which balances prevention and early help with enforcement.

“Enforcement is only carried out where necessary and is focused on behaviour and not groups of individuals.

“We are aware of the community concerns and want to reiterate that this is designed to address aggressive begging, which means begging carried out with evidence of aggressive, violent and intimidating behaviour. “Appropriate controls and monitoring will be contained within an Enforcement Protocol, which is being developed to ensure the PSPOs are not issued inappropriately or used against those that are more vulnerable and needing support.”