Squatters in London

Squatters! Is your house safe?

Squatters have taken my £4m home

A lawyer told how he was “horrified” to find squatters had moved into his half-finished £4million home.
Hamish Lal said the seven Eastern Europeans and a Briton have occupied Hillcrest Lodge, a three-storey Victorian house in Highgate, for the past month, claiming they can’t afford London rents.
Bags of rubbish, bricks and other debris are strewn in the front garden of the property, which has been undergoing building work for the past year, while the squatters are said to have made some drastic changes inside.

“What seems to have happened is a misunderstanding,” said Mr Lal. “These squatters thought the property was abandoned, but actually it’s a building site that’s going to be turned into a high-spec residential property.
“Highgate is an expensive area and that house is worth a fortune. These people thought somebody had just left it like that but we were waiting on planning permission.”
A notice pinned to the front window, apparently by the squatters, states that anyone attempting to enter the building will face legal action. It reads: “We live in this property, it is our home and we intend to stay here.”
One Polish occupant, 24, who did not want to give her name, said high London rents left her no option but to live there. “We always try to find buildings which are empty and abandoned,” she said. “There are so many empty buildings which are just not in use and no one living in them. Why? It is a big waste.
“My friend is a single mum and she was waiting for a very long time to get a council flat. She was living in a squat because she couldn’t make money and afford to pay rent. Squatting is a kind of solution.
“Squatting for me is not forever, it is something I do for the moment. As long as I don’t hurt somebody else’s feelings it is okay.”
Mr Lal said planning approval has now been given and building work will resume on Monday. He explained he had struck a deal with the group.
“The squatters have agreed to vacate before the building work starts and if they’re true to their word, they should leave,” he said.

by Emine Sinmaz
25 Nov 2011 from London Evening Standard

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