HOMELESS people are pitching their tents outside a town hall.

Traders said the group of rough sleepers have been “running amok” during weddings and take drugs openly.

One of the tents outside Brighton Town Hall has a “home sweet home” sign and another is decked out with a couch.

The tents have been outside the hall for months and traders are now demanding to know why they have not been moved on.

The Argus understands that offers of accommodation have been made to those inside the tents.

Passers-by say they are afraid to leave nearby the car park for fear of aggressive begging.

Councillor Dawn Barnett, who claims businesses are threatening to stop paying business rates, said: “This has got to be stopped.

“If I owned one of the shops in the square and owned a pressure washer, I would turn it on them.”

When The Argus visited the tents with Cllr Barnett yesterday to speak to the homeless people, one tent-dweller accused her of being “up her own a***”.

In a fiery confrontation, the Hangleton city councillor demanded to know where they were from.

The woman inside the tent said she was from Southampton.

Cllr Barnett said: “These people come up from Bournemouth and down from London.

“Why? Because we are putting up with whatever they like.

“This is in Caroline Lucas’s ward, what is she doing about it?”

The Green MP for Brighton Pavilion said she was working with the city council to tackle the issue and called on Cllr Barnett to lobby her own Government to challenge its “deeply damaging policies”.

She said she was urging the council to provide more emergency accommodation and “regularly raises concerns about antisocial behaviour”.

The tents can be found scattered around Bartholomew Square.

Carl Jones, owner of Japanese restaurant Moshimo, wants to know why they are not being moved on.

The 55-year-old said: “It’s horrendous.

“Whoever is in the tents chops and changes all the time.

“They’ve got laptops and use the hotel’s wi-fi.

“We’re just by the town hall, a civic centre which has weddings and they are running amok.”

Mr Jones said the restaurant will feed those who are “genuinely homeless” and put them in touch with homeless services.

Another trader, who did not want to be named, said she has seen people openly injecting drugs.

Andy Winter, boss of Brighton Housing Trust, said those providing the homeless with tents were a “complete and utter menace”.

He said: “The rough sleeping crisis has, literally, reached the doors of the town hall.

“A start must be a zero tolerance of begging which is more to do with addiction than homelessness.

“It results in people with addictions not seeking or taking up offers of help, increasing the chances of them dying.

“We’ve heard that some people in the town centre won’t visit services because begging is lucrative at the very time the day centre is open.

“No one needs to beg in the city.

“There is food so nobody will starve, and no hostel charges upfront.”

TENTS cannot be immediately removed as the law is “complex”, according to a city council spokeswoman.

If the tents are on a public highway and are considered a danger, they can be removed within two hours.

But court proceedings must be issued if they are only considered a “nuisance” or are on private land.

Tents that are abandoned can be removed but many rough sleepers will put a sign on their tents to indicate there are people living inside.

Speaking about the tents outside Brighton Town Hall, the spokeswoman said: “Any action to move a tent is taken with consideration for those staying there.

“Living in a tent in a busy city centre is dangerous. 

“The tents currently located in Bartholomew Square have been occupied by numerous individuals, all of who have been supported with by our outreach workers.”

The spokeswoman said the council was working to resolve the issue by speaking with those affected and providing help to the rough sleepers.

She said the register office had received no complaints and stressed instances of illegal activity should be reported to police.

She said: “At the same time the council has a duty of care to all its residents, businesses and visitors and we will act where antisocial behaviour and obstruction to the highway becomes a significant issue for the city. This can take time due to the legal process and we will keep those involved updated.”