Marks & Spencer has apologised after "mistakenly" installing spikes in a sheltered window of its city centre store in a bid to deter those sleeping rough.

Rubber strips with hundreds of sharp teeth were laid in the opening in St Stephens Street at the weekend.

The move sparked outrage, being dubbed "inhumane" but now, after being contacted by the Evening News, the retail giant has ripped up the strips.

%image(15612857, type="article-full", alt="The spikes - which have since been removed - were "laid by mistake", an M&S spokesman said")

An M&S spokesman said: “These rubber strips were installed mistakenly by a contractor over the weekend and we have arranged for them to be removed as soon as possible.

"We are sorry for any confusion or upset caused by this mistake.”

Jamie Osborn, Green city and county councillor for the Mancroft ward, said:"It's an inhumane measure. They make Norwich look like a fortress.

"It's good that they're being removed so quickly as they are frankly dangerous to various people, including people sleeping rough and members of the public."

But he questioned why contractors would even consider laying the spikes: "Questions do need to be asked as to why they were installed. How does a mistake such as this come to happen?

"Physical deterrents aren't the answer. People have to sleep somewhere, and they'll move on somewhere else.

"It doesn't actually help solve the problem and cater to what people actually need.

"They need secure shelter, not to be barricaded out."

%image(15612859, type="article-full", alt="By Tuesday, the spikes had been removed from the window on the St Stephens Street side of M&S Norwich")

Nicola Darkins, manager of the Pottergate Advice and Refreshment Centre (ARC) - a Salvation Army drop-in service in the city for people who are homeless or vulnerably housed - said she said she was pleased M&S had acted quickly.

She said: “We’ve seen an increase in people needing the services of the ARC and The Salvation Army.

"Something like this does not paint a good light on a city that is normally very generous, welcoming and understanding to people who are experiencing homelessness."

Dr Jan Sheldon, chief executive officer of St Martins - which supports around 300 people facing homelessness - said: "In Norwich we have a supportive city council to support people who are sleeping rough.

"The annual snapshots show a decrease in Norwich. In November 2020 we had 21 people on the streets, but by November 2021 we were down to 10. Norwich is one of the very few areas that the count is actually down.

"Everyone works really hard to support people on the streets. It's the strongest possible indicator that something's really wrong for that person, and that they need specialist help.

"That support is what makes the difference."

Former rough sleeper slams 'disgusting' measure

Jesse Day busks in Norwich city centre every day and, although he now lives on the edge of the city, previously faced a spell of homelessness.

%image(15612863, type="article-full", alt="Jesse Day, pictured with Bimbim, said that anti-rough sleeping measures are "degrading"")

He said: "I think it's disgusting that things like spikes are being put down. It's not solving the problem.

"It's degrading, isn't it? All they're trying to do is sleep somewhere out of the rain.

"It's not on, especially in this day and age. There shouldn't be any need for anyone to be homeless.

"The council do a lot, but they could do a lot more for homeless and vulnerable people in those sorts of situations."