TENT dwellers “drinking, fighting and defecating” in the city centre are often holidaymakers, an outgoing housing chief has claimed.

Residents near Old Steine Gardens in Brighton say they are facing daily battles with drug use, human waste and litter from people who have set up camp in the area.

Labour councillor Gill Williams, the outgoing housing chief on Brighton and Hove City council says that when investigated, the campers turned out to be “revellers” who have come to have fun.

The Argus:

She added that when other tents around the city were checked out, the majority were revealed to be holidaymakers and not homeless people.

She said: “I’ve had an email from somebody who lives near Old Steine about some tents that popped up there over the weekend and these are actually revellers, they’re not any homelessness people that we know about, they are people coming to have fun.

“They do need to be moved so what we do now need is to have implementation of enforcement as to how to move the tents. We have had talks about this and how we’re going to deal with this in a humane and sensitive way, but separating out those people who are rough sleeping and need help.

“And separating them out from people who are coming to Brighton for a bit of a weekend and a bit of fun.”

The Argus:

Conservative councillor Mary Mears said that the comments were “an insult to residents”, including those at the Old Steine, who are currently experiencing “severe antisocial behaviour”.

Residents in that area say the situation in the area is “intolerable” and they are woken every day with screaming and fighting.

Cllr Mears said: “Residents are bearing the brunt of antisocial behaviour on Old Steine Gardens which has not been addressed by the council.

“For these residents to then read a statement that the council considers the majority of tents in parks to be holiday-makers is insulting.

The Argus:

“It also demonstrates why the Labour administration made no progress on addressing these issues in the city.”

Fellow Conservative councillor Dawn Barnett added: “There are holiday camp sites across the city and if these tents are holiday-makers they should be encouraged to move there.”

The Labour Group handed over control of the council to the Greens after a week of resignations and suspensions in July.

A spokesman for the group said: “Councillor Williams’ quote was based on correct information at the time, but this is of course a rapidly developing situation.

“People end up rough sleeping for lots of reasons, such as relationship breakdown, losing their job and being unable to pay rent, and the impact of a decade of Tory austerity.

“The Labour Group continues to call on the Conservative government to extend the evictions ban, scrap ‘no fault’ evictions altogether.”

The council says it is working with the police and other partners around enforcement, support and accommodation for those who are rough sleeping.

A spokesman said: “We are also aware of gatherings of people who aren’t rough sleepers, who are mixing with tent dwellers and causing anti-social behaviour.

“Multi-agency meetings are being held and we are working hard to resolve this for residents.

“In cases where we find tent dwellers to be holiday makers rather than homeless people, we act to move them on as quickly as our legal powers enable us to do so.”