Empty shops in a Cambridge street described as "unsavoury" because of beggars and drug takers have had their doorways boarded up.
Several businesses have stopped trading in Christ's Lane – and one manager told the News that the presence of homeless people had been upsetting staff and deterring shoppers.
Some of the shop doorways were being used by rough sleepers, who were still there when staff arrived for work in the mornings.
Now the entrances to the empty premises have been blocked off with boards.
The move has shocked some local residents, who feel it is unfair to prevent homeless people from using the doorways.
One woman, who did not want to be named, said: "What harm are they doing? And where else do they have to go?
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"It's so cold at the moment, and the bigger shop doorways are one way to keep out of the wind and wet.
"There probably aren't enough beds available in the night shelter, so it surely makes sense to let them use the shops."
Another said: "Maybe it's something to do with increased security, but it looks very much as if it's been done simply to stop people sleeping there. I don't think that's right."
Among the businesses in Christ’s Lane to have shut up shop in recent times is the Triumph women’s underwear store. Its former manager, Lesley Lebbon, said at the time it closed: "Sales here have been very tough recently, and I think the reason is that the whole street has become a place where people don't want to stop because of the homeless people and drug takers. It's become an unsavoury area.
"We come in in the mornings and there are used needles lying about all over the road. Who'd want to take their children to a shopping street when it's like that?
"One day when one of my staff arrived for work, she found a man in our entrance with his trousers down – she didn’t stop to ask why – and the shops here often get homeless people sleeping in the doorway. Something needs to be done in a constructive way, such as maybe providing canopies on the green spaces where people can sleep and have shelter. They’re people like everyone else, and must be treated properly."
A spokesman for the property management company looking after the shops said: "The hoardings are up to protect the entrances from unwanted attention and provide a safe environment for contractors who will be working on the units very soon."