ROUGH sleepers were “left soaked” when a street cleaning machine passed within inches of them.

Shocked David Evans, 69, had just parked his car in Colchester High Street when he noticed the machine trundling up the road.

The machine, which sprays hot water onto the pavement, is operated by a driver, with another operative walking alongside.

Mr Evans was left stunned when the machine passed “within inches” of the two sleeping men, spraying them with hot water.

He said: “I had parked in one of the disabled bays in Colchester High Street.

“When I got out I noticed the big machine used by the council about 20 yards away.

“I watched as this machine came right up to these people, who were lying there asleep.

“It passed within two inches of them, spraying water and steam everywhere.

“They didn’t do anything about it, and incredibly the machine came back and went past them again.

“If they had been run over they could have been seriously hurt.

“They were soaked with hot water.”

Mr Evans has reported the incident, which took place at around 8.15am on Wednesday, November 8, to Colchester Council and Essex Police.

He said: “I have reported it to the council and the police, both have said they are investigating the matter.

“I thought it was absolutely disgusting.

“If they made a mistake or were inches out, they would have run them over.”

A Colchester Council spokesman said the council is looking at varying the times cleaning takes place to avoid similar incidents.

He said: “The incident involved one person who refused to move when asked several times by both the driver of the hot-wash machine and one of our zone wardens – each request being met with a coarse refusal.

“Fortunately, the whole incident was captured on bodycam by the zone warden who was present throughout to ensure the safety of all concerned. “Regrettably, the member of the public who took photos did not wish to engage in any discussion with our warden when attempts were made to explain to him the sequence of events that had led up to the incident.

“Where such encounters do arise it may be necessary to cover belongings in plastic sheeting before cleaning takes place or even possibly, when the owner is absent, removing belongings to Beacon House for safe keeping.

“We will continue to make efforts to engage with the individual as much as we can, sign-posting him to relevant support services that can help.

“But we do also need to ensure our streets are clean, safe and welcoming for others.”