Marks and Spencer in Ilford apologises after installing anti-homeless alarm

PUBLISHED: 13:15 26 July 2017 | UPDATED: 14:16 26 July 2017

Homeless camp on Havelock Street in Ilford

Homeless camp on Havelock Street in Ilford

Rosaleen Fenton

Marks and Spencer has apologised after using a high-pitched alarm to stop homeless people from sleeping behind its store in Ilford.

Homeless camp on Havelock Street in Ilford Homeless camp on Havelock Street in Ilford

The alarm was removed on Tuesday from the underpass, on Havelock Street, Ilford, where rough sleepers have been staying for months.

The camp, which the Recorder reported on in December, is a popular spot for homeless people due to its coverage from bad weather.

The alarm, which was installed in March forced the men and woman camping behind the store into dangerous situations, according to a rough sleeper who frequents the spot.

The man, who runs a blog about his experiences of sleeping rough in Ilford called The Invisible Man: Diary of a Rough Sleeper, described the noise as “Chinese water torture.”

He said: “Marks and Spencer deliberately plays a loud, insidious beeping sound, throughout the night, from loudspeakers above the homeless.

“This sound, at times, goes on all night. You never get any rest.

“Some of us have experienced weeks and months where this horrible sound, which is like Chinese water torture, but worse, begins around midnight and continues until around 6am.”

The M&S spokeswoman said the alarm, which was highlighted by The Guardian, had been trialled for two months before being permanently removed this week.

She said: “We apologise for any distress caused by the trial.

“Under community protection law, we’re required to put in place measures that ensure our stores and the surrounding areas are secure for customers, colleagues and the local community.

“An alarm system was tested in our Ilford store but has been removed.

“In addition to the work we do with charities at both a national and local level to help fund practical measures to support those affected by homelessness, our team is working on a local action plan for Ilford.”

Captain John Clifton, of the Ilford Salvation Army, said he was pleased to see that the store had permanently removed the alarm.

He said: “It’s really good that they have recognised that this is not the way to go about addressing long term homelessness.

“It’s also good that they want to want to use their resources to support measures tackling homelessness locally.”

A Redbridge Council spokesman said they weren’t aware that the alarm would be installed.

He said: “The council has engaged with rough sleeping in the area on a number of occasions, however, this has had little impact.

“Following this outreach work, a community protection notice was issued and enforced to enable use of the loading bay and unblock the exit in case of fire.

“The council were not aware of an alarm, however, we knew that M&S were planning to install physical measures to prevent the rough sleepers returning to the loading bay.

“With the dedicated work of our partners, rough sleepers will continue to receive help and support to assist them. Our partnership working is very effective and by joining forces we are able to address the needs and impacts of rough sleepers in our borough.

“Our housing service funds the homeless charity Single Homeless Project to provide an outreach service to rough sleepers for Redbridge and also supports the funding of the Welcome Centre to provide day care services to rough sleepers including access to health care, training and employment services.”

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