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Tents 'blight on landscape'
Oxford's mushrooming 'Tent City' for homeless people is under threat after increasing complaints about it blighting the landscape.
The encampment of just a few tents has been alongside the Thames towpath on private land at Osney for about three years.
But in the past few weeks it has swelled to 15 tents - and now Dennis Price, the self-styled leader of Tent City as it has been christened, is building himself a wooden home.
Locals and towpath users are now complaining about health hazards and feeling intimidated, while Oxford City Council is investigating if it breaches planning laws. If it does, the campers could be evicted.
But Mr Price said they would not be moving on because there was nowhere else to go.
Father-of-three Peter Marsh, 49, who lives in Osney Island, said the presence of the homeless people could be intimidating for those walking along the towpath.
Mr Marsh said: "The camping site should be broken up and the people should be moved on and council officers should do it.
"I'm a member of Osney Island Boat Club and I canoe on the river with my daughters and there are bits of raw sewage floating in the river.
"The tents are an eyesore when you come into Oxford by train - it is the first thing that catches your eye as you come into the city."
Maureen Ergeneli, 66, who also lives on Osney Island, added: "I think it's an eyesore.
"I often walk my dog down there and the people living there are usually quite friendly, but when friends come to visit me from overseas I feel ashamed because they look aghast when they see it."
When the Oxford Mail visited the site yesterday, Mr Price - alias Snowy - said he had moved between a number of locations over the years including Oxford, Worcester, Cardiff and Swansea, and now wanted to stay put.
He added: "I am building a home out of wood on a pontoon so that my belongings will not get wet. This is my home and I plan to stay."
Mr Price, 59, said he other campers were setting up a chemical toilet at the site.
Peter Bonney, 68, is a volunteer at Headington-based Churchill Community Association and provides food and clothing for the homeless.
He said: "These people are not doing anyone any harm and they should be allowed to stay.
"There is not enough room in the hostels in Oxford."
Michael Crofton Briggs, head of planning at the city council, said it was agricultural land and the council was investigating if people living on it was a change of use.
Ultimately its enforcement action could include breaking up the camp, but spokesman Louisa Dean said that was a long process.
Mr Crofton Briggs added: "The land is Green Belt and a protected landscape site. Any action that we take will involve the landowner and the tenant.
"As a council we have also been working with our partner agencies to try to resolve this situation."
Susanna Pressel, Labour city councillor for Jericho and Osney, said she had received complaints about people feeling intimidated.