SHOPPERS and councillors said more needs to be done to protect a town centre from beggars.

Burnley town centre was made the subject of a public space protection order (PPO) in May 2016, banning beggars from operating in the soon-to-be-renovated pedestrianised areas of the town centre.

But in recent weeks shoppers, councillors and business-owners said they had noticed beggars had begun operating again around fast food restaurants and cashpoints in St James’ Street, St James’ Row, Hammerton Street and Manchester Road.

Today Cllr Lian Pate, Burnley Council’s executive member for community safety, was set to attend a meeting with council to discuss ways of tackling the issue.

One man, who works in the town centre, said: “I see beggars every day on my way into work and it has become a big problem lately.. More of them seem to hang around cash points and near McDonald’s, Greggs and other food places like that.

“It makes people feel nervous., especially when they see you with money. The public order doesn’t seem to have worked, surely something else must be done. People say the police should be out there every day but that takes up lots of resources.”

Shopper Christine Bracken, who lives in Burnley, said: “I have noticed more beggars recently and it is a real shame these people end up on the street.” Begging is illegal under the Vagrancy Act of 1824. The PPO, which also covers skateboarding, and anti-social behaviour, could see people caught begging fined £100 on the spot. This could rise to £1,000 if they were taken to the magistrates’ court for failure to pay the fixed penalty or persistently re-offended.

Cllr Pate said: “Begging is a problem in towns and cities across the country and we find that individuals move from town to town.

“We’ve no evidence to suggest that the number of beggars in the town centre has increased, however we are aware that new individuals have appeared in town and we will deal with them.

“People need to be aware that the vast majority of beggars have substance misuse issues and they using begging to feed their habit.

“The vast majority are also not homeless, despite what they may say.

“Our preferred approach is intervention, engaging with them and encouraging them to work with local agencies who can provide the help and support they need, but we do take enforcement action when required.

“Town centre enforcement officers and Police Community Support Officers gather evidence and we do take court action with a view to getting an order banning them from the centre.

“The Public Space Protection Order introduced last year provides extra legislation we can use against persistent offenders and is doing what we wanted it to do.”

However, some residents said moving beggars out of the town centre was not the best solution.

Mrs Bracken said: “Beggars only need to be given an address and they can start looking for jobs or claim benefits, which would get them on the right path. There’s dozens of empty buildings in the town. Could they not be turned into somewhere which could give them a home? It’s such a real shame, I feel for them.

“St Peter’s Church had a soup kitchen and it would give people something to eat but that was a drop in the ocean to find a solution.”

Shopper Carol Dillon, who lives in the town, said: “I try to help when I can, I’ve given them food, water and clothes in the past. But I don’t like to give money because you don’t know what they are going to buy with it.”

“Some of them are definitely not homeless, but others are definitely there because they have fallen on hard times.”