ENFORCEMENT notices were pinned to tents as council officers moved to stop a group from pitching up a makeshift campsite.

The tents, which aren’t visible from the road, were located on a small slope among a huddle of trees just off St Botolph’s roundabout.

Essex Police and Colchester Council issued the notices after reports of anti-social behaviour.

But a group of three men and a woman, who said they were homeless, disputed this and said they had kept the site tidy.

The Gazette visited the site, which is on council-owned land, on Friday after the group had been told to leave.

Halstead Gazette:

Pinned - the note hanging from one of the tents

Darren Roberts, 29, said all his possessions were in his tent.

Darren, who worked as a plasterer before he became homeless around six months ago, said he had nowhere to go.

“Do you think if we had homes we would be staying in a tent here with all our possessions?” he said.

“Why would I choose to sleep here if I had a place to go, if I had a proper bed?

“We don’t have anywhere to go.

“The worst thing is I can’t get a job without a home address.

“My life is here in this bag.”

He added: “We do have a good time here, we have a drink.

“We have to really to try and keep our spirits up.

“I went to the night shelter, but there is a problem with drugs and your stuff getting taken.”

Brad Day, 22, said he became homeless after losing his job and has struggled with drug dependency.

“We can’t complain about Beacon House, at least there you can get a shower and some food,” he said.

“We are struggling to get help and we don’t get it.

“You still have a life that you need to try and make for yourself.

“There are no homes for any of us.”

The group said they would likely move to another nearby site to pitch up their tents.

  • What does the council say?

Colchester Council’s public safety boss says the authority has done all it can to help the group.

The authority issued the notices after frequent reports of alcohol-related anti-social behaviour.

Halstead Gazette:

Enforcement - the notice found pinned to the tent

Mike Lilley, councillor responsible for public safety, said officers had repeatedly been forced to take action against drinkers pitching tents in the St Botolph’s area.

“Most of the people there have been looked at,” he said.

“We will ask who they are and what their background is.

“If they are homeless then they are helped and are directed towards services which can assist.

“But many will refuse to receive any help whatsoever.

“If anyone can find a solution to help people with alcohol dependency who don’t want to be helped - I am all ears.”

A problem with anti-social behaviour at the historic St Botolph’s Priory culminated in the employment of security guards at the site.

Mr Lilley said: “People used to drink in the Priory, that hasn’t been a problem since the guards came in.

“Groups moved on to St Botolph’s roundabout and when they were moved off there they continued nearby.

“Wardens have been down there numerous times over the past couple of months.”