THE council has said it will not try to ban a soup kitchen from operating in Queen's Gardens. A leaked report revealed that council officers had recommended using "all available bylaws" against the soup kitchen because of concerns about antisocial behaviour. Nightwatch, the charity which has run the kitchen for 37 years, branded the plan "immoral". However, in a statement released this afternoon (Friday), the council said that, after the report was discussed, the idea of forcing the soup kitchen out was dropped for working with the charity to find a solution. A spokesman said: "Having looked at a number of possible options it was decided that we would work with Nightwatch and other agencies to find a new approach that would tackle the current antisocial behaviour and ensure that those people in genuine need of support receive the most appropriate help in the most suitable way." The council said that decision had been taken earlier this month but, as recently as this morning, Nightwatch chairman Jad Adams had not been informed. The report, called 'Town Centre – Food Provision', was written by Tony Brooks, director of public safety, and discussed at a meeting of senior councillors and council officers. It said The Spread Eagle pub had been "greatly affected by the presence of what has been termed a 'Soup Kitchen'". "The customers of the public house, users of the gardens and pedestrians nearby have complained about the behaviour of those using the soup kitchen," it added. The soup kitchen is held every night of the year on the upper level of Queen's Gardens. Volunteers provide people with food and drink, as well as toiletries, duvets and clothes. On its busiest nights it attracts up to 50 people. The report said removing the soup kitchen would reduce crime and antisocial behaviour in the town centre. It details bylaws that might have been used, including fines of up to £50 if they are breached. It lists three options, including allowing the soup kitchen to continue, which the report says will "do nothing to reduce antisocial behaviour and frustrate the activities of the police and partners in trying to address the lifestyles of these individuals". The report also suggests moving the kitchen to a different location, but adds the preferred approach is to close it down "utilising all available bye laws [sic] and preventing the use of Queen's Gardens for this activity". According to the council this recommendation was rejected in favour of a new, as of yet unrevealed, approach. Mr Adams said the soup kitchen will move when Taberner House, bordering Queen's Gardens, is turned into flats.
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