London Squatters grabbing headlines

marksimonbrown mark at
Wed Aug 27 14:38:15 BST 2008

from today's Guardian
1. A positive occupation
Squatters often evoke a negative image, but more and more empty properties are being taken over and brought back into use for the community - and some landlords are welcoming them. Diane Taylor reports
When the occupants of the 491 Gallery in Leytonstone, east London, play squatters' Monopoly, a variation on the real game, they declare that the place they've lived in for the last seven years is the equivalent to Mayfair on the board game. "This is by far the best squat I've ever lived in," says Sy, an artist.
With its white-walled gallery space, airy rooms and landscaped garden it's easy to see why he and his six housemates find the place so appealing. But it wasn't always like this. The building, owned by Transport for London (TfL), had previously been used as a shooting gallery for heroin and crack addicts.

2. 300 squatters in South London housing estate
Prejudiced garbage from inside today's Evening Standard:

Families in �1million homes tell of 'nightmare' as 300 squatters take 
over entire housing estate 
Evening Standard 
Wednesday 27th August 2008 
(Web-source at the bottom)

Residents in a street where houses cost more than �1 million each 
have been besieged by an army of squatters because of a council 

Upmarket homeowners today told how 300 illegal occupants have taken 
over a neighbouring block of flats - holding all-night rave parties, 
lighting bonfires and playing loud music. 

Residents slammed officials for failing to secure the homes, which 
they say have been made into a rubbish tip, strewn with broken 
furniture and beer bottles, and covered in graffiti. 

The four blocks, which were being used as temporary accommodation, 
were due to be returned to a private owner when the lease expired in 

But the squatters, including around 100 young Polish men, took 
residence in the 45 flats just before the handover after hearing it 
was empty by word of mouth. 

Lambeth council in London said it could not return the apartments to 
the unnamed owners until the premises had been vacated  -  leaving 
the council with a rent bill estimated at �40,000 a month. 

The council has won a possession order to evict the squatters but has 
been warned it could take years to get them out.

The total cost to taxpayers, including legal fees and repairing any 
damage, is likely to be close to �500,000. 

Nearby homeowners are furious that they face months of all-night 
parties and other anti-social behaviour. 

Dulce Lopes, 31, a mother who lives across the road, said the quiet 
residential area had been devastated by the squatters. 

She said: 'It feels more dangerous here now. It's very dirty and 
there are a lot of shady people hanging around opposite my house. 
Some of them look like punks, they are very strange. 

'There are cars and people coming and going in the middle of the 
night. Sometimes we feel scared because we don't know what they're 
going to do.

Another neighbour, a father of two young children who did not want to 
be named, said: 'The noise is absolutely unbelievable and it 
continues late into the night. They are all drinking and no doubt 
taking drugs. 

'It's a nightmare living next door to all that. I can't wait until 
they are evicted.' 

The squatters have defended their right to occupy the flats and said 
they have offered to pay some rent. 

Sasha, 25, a performing arts student, said: 'We need somewhere to 
live and we really want to stay but I'm not sure if they will let us. 

'There are so many empty houses in London they should just let us pay 
to live here. People are prejudiced against us because of how they 
think we live. 

'But we have actually spent money maintaining this place.' 

Another squatter Eugene, 32, said: 'I've got a four-month-old baby, 
so if the bailiffs come and evict us we will be out on the street and 
then I don't know what we will do. 

'We can't afford �1,000 a month to rent a flat privately. Many of the 
people here would be happy to pay some money to live here but the 
council won't even talk to us. 

'They just want us out as soon as possible, so they can give the 
place back to the owners. I think they want to redevelop it. 

'There's a community of us here, lots of families and children. We 
just want to live our lives in peace.'

A spokesman for Lambeth council said: 'Despite the steps we took to 
secure the property it was mass squatted. We immediately set the 
legal process in motion to evict them. 

'We've done everything we can to remove the squatters as quickly as 
possible, but ultimately squatting is an illegal and anti-social 
activity that results in cost to the taxpayer.'

Jeremy Clyne, a local opposition councillor, said it was a 'scandal' 
the authority had wasted so much money on continuing to pay rent 
after its bungled handover of the estate. 

He said: 'To handle this so badly that the council lost control of a 
whole set of blocks is just not good enough. The council need to put 
a stop to this now.'


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