A CITY centre car park which has become home to a tented village of rough sleepers is to be cleared of people and closed up at night.

Southampton City Council will shut the Grosvenor Square multi-storey after complaints of the “poor facilities” and “unsafe environment.”

A city spokesperson said the closure is “a trial” in response to “feedback from car park users that rough sleepers are regularly using the car park to sleep overnight”.

They added that “despite being offered a range of alternative accommodation, rough sleepers have continued to use this facility and as consequence we have received numerous complaints of intimidating behaviour, littering and drug related paraphernalia”.

Councillor Jacqui Rayment, cabinet member for Environment and Transport, said: “This is one of our busiest car parks in the city centre. We’ve listened to feedback from users who have complained of the poor facilities and the unsafe environment and as a result we’ve made the decision to implement these overnight closures.

“Grosvenor Square MSCP has previously had difficulties with anti-social behaviour, street homelessness and drug use and although we are sympathetic to rough sleepers, this initiative is about ensuring our car park users at Grosvenor Square, who pay to park here, have a safe and clean environment in which to park their vehicles.

“There are a whole range of facilities on offer to rough sleepers in our city including regular outreach work which encourages homeless individuals to take advantage of the services on offer to them – from accommodation through to help with alcohol or drug addiction.”

The council have installed metal shutters on the car park and from Monday it will be shut between midnight and 5.30am.

Jane Smith, operations director of charity Society of St James, said the current problem of homelessness in the city has been exacerbated recently by benefits cuts which have left people unable to pay their rent.

She said: “For a lot of people rent has gone up and benefits have gone down and particularly for the under 25s it has been very difficult over the last few months.

“Universal credit takes a long time to come through – they are saying six to 11 weeks.”

A 33-year-old man from Southampton – who is currently living in a doorway on Above Bar with his wife – agreed and said: “After three or four weeks you get a first payment, but you have to wait for six to eight weeks for the next one, but the hostel won’t wait.”

He added: “There aren’t enough beds for everyone, and they are all lumped together, the alcoholics, the drug users and the people who are clean all have to use the same place.”