Belgravia's 'unofficial foreign office' squatted

Tony Gosling tony at
Tue Nov 24 23:25:34 GMT 2009

Nigella Lawson gets new neighbours after serial 
squatters take over abandoned £33million Belgravia mansion

Mail Reporter
Last updated at 4:23 PM on 24th November 2009

Nigella Lawson and her art collector husband 
Charles Saatchi have new neighbours – serial squatters.

The group, known as the ‘Belgravia Squatters’ 
after the exclusive west London area where they 
operate, took over £33million house after being evicted from another.

They gained access to the palatial six-storey 
property near the TV chef’s sprawling mansion 
legally through an open first-floor window.

Legally does it: Squatters enter the six-story home through an open window

The squatters then pinned a notice on the door, 
stating their squatters’ rights and warning against interference.

The 34-room home in fashionable Eaton Square was 
once owned by the Amery political family and 
played host to politicians and diplomats - but 
has been left empty by its new owners.

Belgravia Squatters spokesman, filmmaker Mark 
Guard, 45, said: ‘This is yet another abandoned 
property owned by someone hiding behind an offshore account.

‘There is seven years of post piled up. The 
police evicted the squatters from the last place 
and when they throw them out of this property, 
there is another one lined up around the corner.

‘If owners continue to abandon these mansions 
without securing and looking after them, they will be squatted in.

‘There are hundreds of properties like this in 
Belgravia and they are all targets. The squatters 
are doing this legally and have not damaged any properties.’

Mr Guard said owners should offer properties to 
key workers struggling to find accommodation.

He told the London Evening Standard: ‘They will 
babysit these properties for the owners. There is 
no reason to leave them empty and falling apart.’

The mansion has 34 rooms and, although 
dilapidated after being empty for years has 
elegant carved mantelpieces, cornices, ceiling roses and painted designs.

In 1940, it was where prime minister Neville 
Chamberlain’s fate was sealed when Leo Amery, a 
Tory minister, held the meeting in which the 
party ditched him in favour of Winston Churchill.

After the six-day war in 1967, King Hussein of 
Jordan and Moshe Dayan, the Israeli defence 
minister, came to the house ­ known as ‘the 
unofficial foreign office’ ­ to secretly discuss peace.

Six years ago, the property was said to be worth 
less than £10million but a similar-sized house 
nearby recently sold for £33million.

Squatters are regularly targeting properties 
worth up to £50million in Belgravia and Mayfair, 
which are often owned by investors hiding their 
identities behind offshore companies.

According to the Empty Homes Agency, there are 
more than 80,000 empty properties in London - 2.5 
per cent of all homes in the capital.

A growing number are properties bought by foreign 
investors who want a secure asset but continue to live elsewhere.

Eaton Square is among the most prestigious addresses in London.

TV chef Miss Lawson and her husband home is 
complete with its own library and huge reception rooms.

Football managers Jose Mourinho and Sven-Goran Eriksson have also lived there.

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