SUPERMARKET bosses have admitted to binning items owned by members of the homeless community.

Managers at Blackburn’s Morrisons store have copped to claims that they have been disposing of property stored in the carpark after uniformed staff were seen loading items into a trolley from inside a ventilation unit where rough sleepers are known to store their belongings throughout the day.

The multi-storey carpark in the town centre has acted as a make-shift shelter for a high volumes of homeless people since before Christmas, but staff at the store say they were forced to act after they received several complaints from shoppers.

They also revealed that since clearing out the belongings, which they had been warned posed a safety risk, the situation had ‘greatly improved’ with less people sleeping in the car park.

A spokesman for the supermarket chain said: “We acted following consultations with the council and the discovery of a large amount of belongings in a ventilation shaft, which were considered to be a health hazard.

“The local authority advised that as the individuals were staying on store property, Morrisons could be served with a community prevention order which makes them liable for the behaviour of the individuals."

The spokesman went on to say that following the consultation they issued notice to all those sleeping in the carpark, asking them to collect their belongings.

They continued: "The belongings that were not collected were disposed of after this date and the majority of people left the car park."

Blackburn with Darwen Council said they had been working alongside a number of businesses in the town, including Morrisons.

Sayyed Osman, Director of Adult Services and Prevention, said: "The council is working with local businesses who have concerns for the welfare of individuals begging and sleeping rough, this includes Morrisons.

"Our outreach teams continually engage with individuals they are concerned about to offer support and regularly remind them of the secure overnight provision

"Our support extends to undertaking and assessment through the housing needs team the next working day to address the underlying causes of their circumstance.  

“The team have also supported Morrison’s in engaging with the individuals currently choosing to remain on their site. They are storing sleeping bags in the heating air vents which poses a fire risk.

"A local charity has offered to store them as a compromise, if they continue to ignore the requests and support, including storage offer, the option of enforcement action or disposal is a last resort but necessary given the potential risk of fire.”

"A local charity has offered to store the items for them as a compromise, but if they [the homeless community] continue to ignore the requests and support, including storage offer, the option of enforcement action or disposal is a last resort but necessary given the potential risk of fire.”

Before Christmas, it was revealed that homelessness in Blackburn is worse now than it ever has been before, with as many as 13 people sleeping rough on the streets at any one time.

But councillors agreed that the issue faced by the supermarket was a ‘catch 22’ situation.

Councillor Derek Hardman, who was on the council’s scrutiny committee that looked at homelessness in 2018, said: “This is a very two sided matter and I can see things from the supermarket’s point of view - if the belongings were causing a hazard then the store needs to first prioritise and protect staff and shoppers.

“But it is a catch 22. The council do our best to offer as many services as we can but there are a number of hardcore rough sleepers who don’t want to come in from off the streets and seek alternative accommodation.”

Chair of the 2018 scrutiny committee, Cllr Naushad Surve also commented, saying things should 'not be allowed to get to this level.'

He said: "The council continually work to combat the issue of homelessness in the borough and our main objective is to turn people's lives around.

"The only way to try and resolve an issue like this is by opening a dialogue between all of the parties involved to ensure everyone is getting the help and support that they need. We need to encourage as much engagement as possible."