Cosmetics retailer Lush will allow its Cornmarket site to be used as a temporary homeless shelter, after facing condemnation for boarding it up.

The company was criticised last month after boards were placed outside the entrance of the empty store, denying rough sleepers shelter.

The move provoked outrage, with David Thomas, leader of the council’s Green Party group, describing it as “heartless”. In response, Lush issued an apology and took down the boarding.

The retailer has now approached Homes4All, a homelessness action group, to convert the space into temporary accommodation for rough sleepers.

The shelter, set to open on Saturday, will accommodate 19 beds.

Lush moved out to a new unit in the Westgate Centre in October but remains responsible for the Cornmarket Street shop until the end of the lease.

Homes4All founder, Deborah Robson-Grey, said: “We were thrilled when Lush approached us to say we could use their old business premises on Cornmarket Street until their lease runs out at the end of January next year.”

She added the unused retail space would act as a “stop gap” until they achieve their ambition of converting a bus into a mobile homeless shelter. A request of £20,000 funding for this project was rejected by councillors in November.

Councillor David Thomas said: “Two weeks ago the council refused to fund Homes4All’s idea of converting buses into homeless shelters.

“Now, with one of the coldest winters in a decade upon us, Home4All have come up with an alternative.”

In a statement responding to the shop’s conversion, Councillor Mike Rowley, board member for housing, said: “Oxford City Council, in conjunction with St Mungo’s, Homeless Oxfordshire and The Porch, has opened emergency accommodation over the past four nights during the cold weather for all rough sleepers, whether or not they have a local connection.

“From January, churches in Oxford will be operating an emergency night shelter with OxSpot, our Outreach Team, making referrals to the scheme.

“It may be that this latest initiative could become part of the ‘rolling provision’.”

Lush did not respond to a request for comment.