33,000 sign petition against moving rough sleepers before Windsor royal wedding

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More than 33,000 people have signed a petition opposing rough sleepers being cleared from Windsor before the royal wedding.

Tory council leader Simon Dudley said beggars could present the town in a "sadly unfavourable light" when Prince Harry marries American actress Meghan Markle in May.

In a letter to police, he complained about "aggressive begging and intimidation", and "bags and detritus" on the streets.

A petition to stop rough sleepers being taken off the streets attracted more than 33,300 signatures by Saturday evening.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will wed in May (PA/Dominic Lipinski)
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will wed in May (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Holly Fishwick, who launched the campaign on change.org, wrote: "I'm calling for this demand on the local police force to be withdrawn, and for people who are homeless not to be removed.

"Instead the council and local authorities should offer a suitable long-term solution for these people, including safe and secure accommodation and health advice and support."

She added that Mr Dudley's view "actually goes against the philanthropic ethos of the couple whose wedding is being celebrated".

Both Harry and Ms Markle have done charity work in the past, with the Prince focusing specifically on mental health and homeless issues.

Made a petition to stop @MrSimonDudley demanding @TVP_Windsor remove rough sleepers ahead of the #RoyalWedding. Go on... sign it for Harry & Meghan! @crisis_uk@Shelter@centrepointuk@HomelessWindsorhttps://t.co/VQWgjSuV2g

-- Holly Fishwick (@HollyFishwick) January 4, 2018

In a series of twitter posts Mr Dudley, Windsor and Maidenhead council leader, claimed rough sleepers had made a "commercial life choice" to prey on others.

He said police should use their powers under the 1824 Vagrancy Act and the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 to "protect residents and tourists".

His comments also attracted criticism from homeless charities and Prime Minister Theresa May said she disagreed with his assessment.