POLICE will step up patrols in a churchyard after reports homeless people are making the lives of neighbours a misery.

Anne Drury, 63, asked councillors and police officers to follow through with plans to introduce a public space protection order (PSPO) in the town centre to deal with groups of people congregating in the yard of St Mary’s Church.

The legislation has been put in place for the nearby St Mary’s car park, which she believes has driven people to the churchyard yard away from her assisted living accommodation.

She said: “It is an ongoing problem which seems to be getting worse.

“Three months ago I woke up in the early hours to the most terrible noise, there were a number of vagrant people in the churchyard and they have been there ever since.

“They have moved to the churchyard because a PSPO was put on to the car park.

“Most of them are not homeless and not starving – this is their chosen lifestyle to drink and take drugs.

“The noise they make is brain piercing and the stench of the drugs permeate our flats.

“Elderly residents have to make their way through drug paraphernalia on a simple trip to the shops.

“We are also concerned for the safety of staff coming to the accommodation with medical kits.

“We want our lives back – what is left of them.”

The council has held a consultation on introducing legislation to the whole of the town centre and, if it is implemented, council wardens and police officers would have the authority to force beggars to move on, issue an on-the-spot fine or take them court.

Businesses who use too many A-boards could also be punished.

The action has been criticised by the Rt Rev Roger Morris, the Bishop of Colchester, who called the plan “blunt and uncompromising.”

Mr Morris said he feared the scheme would see people railroaded into the criminal justice system.

Colchester’s community inspector Danielle Booth said a dispersal order had been set up so people causing trouble could be moved on.

She said: “It is an interim measure and the team have been given that area as a dedicated patrol.

“There is an expectation the area is patrolled when possible and hopefully on a daily basis.

“I am aware behaviour there is not satisfactory.”