AN Oxford GP is campaigning on behalf of rough sleepers who seek comfort on freezing nights from an air vent thought to be owned by an Oxford college.

Andrew Moscrop, 41, who works at Jericho Health Centre, said he had seen the homeless on a number of occasions keeping warm on the grate from hot air that rises up to street level.

But Mr Moscrop, who has also worked at Luther Street Medical Centre, run by support network Oxford Homeless Pathways, said bikes have now been collectively chained up with a single chain on the grate in Brasenose Lane, off Turl Street.

He said: “I have seen the homeless on lots of occasions using the air vent on a cold night to keep warm. Now that’s not possible because the bikes have been chained up there. I believe the air vent is above one of the college kitchens. It would be lovely if the homeless could enjoy some of the food the colleges serve up.”

Mr Moscrop, who lives on a 40ft narrowboat in Oxford with his partner, said he had seen rough sleepers wrapped in blankets and warming themselves over the air vent.

He added: “It looks like a single large steel chain has been used to tie up several bikes. It could be accidental but it could be a deliberate attempt to move the homeless on. The homeless have enough to cope with and it would be petty to take away this source of comfort.

“I think the bikes should be removed as soon as possible.”

Last year, when the Lush store in Cornmarket switched to the Westgate, barriers were installed, which made it difficult for rough sleepers to bed down in the doorway. Then the company agreed the store could be used as a temporary centre for the homeless. The city and county councils are considering initiatives to reduce the number of rough sleepers.

Green city councillor David Thomas said: “I will try to find out who is responsible so the bikes can be removed. Not all rough sleepers are able to find shelter in hostels.”

A spokesman for Brasenose College stated the air vent did not belong to them. Neighbouring Lincoln College were unavailable for comment.