Squatters take over Britain's most expensive council house

Tony Gosling tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Thu Oct 31 02:01:58 GMT 2013

Squatters take over Britain's most expensive 
council house on same day Southwark sold it for £3m

Homes for all: A squatter leans out of the window of the house


Published: 29 October 2013

Updated: 16:20, 29 October 2013

Squatters occupying Britain’s most expensive 
council house vowed today to fight attempts to 
evict them after it was sold for nearly £3 million.

The group moved into the four storey building 
near Borough Market yesterday as it went up for 
auction to protest against the sale of council housing stock.


A stone’s throw from the Shard and the River 
Thames, the Grade II listed property fetched 
£2.96 million, considerably more than its reserve price of £2.25 million.

Today seven protesters, mostly in their 20s and 
30, including students, a roofer and an NGO worker, occupied the premises.

One woman speaking from a top floor window today 
said they were "taking the occupation in shifts".

They claim Southwark is in urgent need of public 
housing with 25,000 people on the council waiting list.

But Southwark Council said the upkeep of the 
buildings was prohibitively expensive and the 
sale of the building would pay for 20 new council homes.

Protest spokeswoman Kate Sheldon, 27, a bike 
mechanic, said: "It's a protest against Southwark 
council selling off social housing.

"The borough has massive housing needs and it's 
madness to sell off the public housing.

"We can't take Southwark council's word they will 
be build new houses in the future.

"The occupation is going to be as long as 
possible. We'll wait until Southwark gets a court 
order and then have a discussion about how to proceed."

The squatters - including members of the Housing 
Action Southwark & Lambeth group - claimed that 
police had left the building alone because it was a political protest.

The campaigners have hung banners on the building 
with slogans “stop social cleansing” and “homes for all.”

Ms Sheldon said : "Part of this occupation is 
about challenging the law that came in last year 
to criminalise squatting in residential properties.

"We're trying to show that people can still make 
use of residential buildings for community protest actions such as ours.”

The property, featuring a distinctive 19th 
century 'Take Courage' advertising sign, was 
built by the Anchor Brewery in 1820 for its 
managers and directors, and was owned for a time 
by the brewery Courage before passing to Southwark Council.

The building previously included numbers 21 and 
23 Park Street but was sold as a single property.

One buyer is thought to have bought the property 
which was advertised as a 5,500 sq ft, 
six-bedroom family home in need of extensive repair and refurbishment.

The house attracted a premium value at auction 
because of its proximity to the Shard and 
fashionable Bankside and Borough Market area 
where house prices have risen by almost 10% over the past year.

However, there was opposition to the squat by local people.

Neighbour Brian Simmonds, 46, a Transport for 
London driver, said: “That building has been 
derelict for a while and is being held up by 
scaffolding. With the amount of money they would 
have to spend to make it inhabitable, you could use it on more families.”

Another neighbour, who did not want to be named, 
said : “Someone else has just bought it so it’s 
their property. They’re not paying rent or 
council tax or any of the other things that we 
have to do so why should they live there for free?”

Southwark Councillor Richard Livingstone, cabinet 
member for finance and resources, said: “These 
buildings have been empty for some time and need 
a substantial amount of work, the new owner will 
be able to bring them up to a good standard.

"It's a shame that it appears that some people 
wish to stop the building of 20 new council 
homes, part of our ambitious programme to build 
11,000 new homes in the borough.

"These much needed, new council homes will be 
built for some of the 20,000 council tenants on 
the waiting list the group claim to represent.

“Squatting of residential property is a criminal 
offence and the police have been notified.”

The move came as Liberal Democrats deputy leader 
Simon Hughes called on the Government and London 
Mayor Boris Johnson to intervene to reduce the 
number of houses and flats being snapped up by overseas buyers.

Recent figures show there are more than 70,000 empty homes in London.
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