VICTORIA Square could quickly become a homeless encampment as a protest escalates.

And those involved have accused Bolton Council of using a public tannoy system throughout the night as a tactic to deprive them of sleep.

In response to the protest, Bolton Council has said it will work with the protesters to help solve their housing issues.

“We are encouraging all the homeless people of Bolton to set up tents here in our protest,” said lead protester, Travis Dootson (20), as he and his fiancé, Lisa Holiday, prepare to spend their sixth night in the square.

They have already been joined by fellow rough sleepers, Xavier Scheller (19) and William McCoy (44), and more are expected to join them.

The protest was triggered because Mr Dootson and Miss Holiday were told by Bolton’s Council One Stop that no joint social housing accommodation is available for them.

“Laura’s been offered somewhere but we’ve been through a lot and we need to be together”, explained Mr Dootson. “We lost our son in October and Laura’s mum passed away in November.

“Laura can’t be on her own because she has anxiety problems and I have mental health problems so I need her with me to keep me stable.”

The couple, who have been together for four years, have been living on the streets for four weeks after a disagreement meant they could no longer live with Miss Holiday’s father.

Some members of the public have shown kindness to the group, including someone who thoughtfully covered the tents in waterproof sheeting.

However, Mr Dootson said others had “terrorised” them.

On Wednesday evening, a brick was hurled at their tent and, Miss Holiday, said, thugs have threatened to set fire to their tent.

In addition, they have had toiletries, an E cigarette and a mobile phone stolen.

Mr Dootson also accused Bolton Council of adopting tactics usually used by the military in siege situations, to force them to abandon their protest.

“Each night, the council keep tapping on the tannoy system for fifteen minutes at a time to keep us awake just when we’re trying to get our heads down,” he said.

On Thursday morning, a council officer told them to move and a police officer was in attendance.

But Mr Dootson said: “The police told us that as long as we use no violence and do a peaceful protest, which we are doing, then we’re alright to stay here and the council would have to get a court order to get us moved.”

The couple are determined to continue their protest and Mr Dootson stated: “We’re going to stay here until we get a house together.”

Mr Scheller, who has also set up camp is fully supportive of them.

“The council are taking the mick,” he said.

And Mr McCoy added: “I’m here because there’s safety and strength in numbers. I’ll be staying here until I get a house or get sent to jail.”

Mr Dootson said they are urging other rough sleepers to join them.

“We’re trying to fill the full square up with homeless people as a protest. We want to embarrass the council into helping us.

“Volunteers from the charity, Urban Outreach, do more for the homeless than the council staff who actually get paid!”

A council spokesman said: “Council officers are aware of the situation and of the individuals involved, and we’re working with them to assist the securing of accommodation. The timescales for this will depend upon availability of limited accommodation options, the continued engagement of the individuals and how they then present to accommodation providers.

“We provide help, advice and support to prevent people from becoming homeless. Anyone at risk of becoming homeless should contact us as soon as they can to see how we can prevent this.

“We are also committed to ending rough sleeping in the town and ensure that there is a proactive approach to supporting rough sleepers off the street.”

The spokesman said the claims that the council is using the tannoy to prevent the protesters from sleeping would be investigated.