THE city council has defended its record on looking after the homeless after claims that plans for parks made life difficult for them.

A Brighton and Hove City council spokesman spoke out after criticisms over park benches after a campaigner said they were designed to stop people sleeping on them.

A council spokesman said: “We have made tackling rough sleeping and protecting the vulnerable a priority and working with our partner organisations and charities in the city we provide extensive support for rough sleepers in a supportive and inclusive way.

“Our approach is that there should be benches for all across the city.

"A range of bench types are currently installed by the council across the city to meet the needs of our many different residents and visitors, some who have mobility or health issues.

“Many residents have told us they would like more arm rests and supports on benches to help sit comfortably and stand up safely.”

Campaigner Daniel Harris had criticised the council over its Open Spaces Plan in the light of a decision by American Express to remove their benches outside of their old Edward Street site, as arm rests blocked people from lying down.

Almost 4,000 people had signed a petition calling for action from American Express, as reported in The Argus.

The strategy outlines proposals to improve the city’s open spaces and parks for the next ten years from 2017 to 2027.

The council also pledges to reduce rough sleeping and people pitching up tents in parks as there are links with anti-social behaviour and drug use.

However, Mr Harris claimed the council is exclusive of vulnerable people.

He said: “The council says it will tackle homelessness in the city. In the Open Space Strategy report, under their anti-social behaviour, safety and crime strategy they specifically said they will develop ways to support rough sleepers.

“Then in the document it mentioned what they have done. It reads they have made new bench designs which will restrict rough sleeping.”

He added: “Pitching tents in public parks is illegal but since it’s hard to secure sheltered accommodation, council should allocate space for rough sleepers.”

“I have lived in a sheltered accommodation before and some of the conditions are very poor. Some places restrict visitors so some rough sleepers prefer to sleep outside instead.”