Squatters take over Britain's most expensive council house
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
DAVENPORT, CRIME EDITOR
Published: 29 October 2013
Updated: 16:20, 29 October 2013
Squatters occupying Britains 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 stones 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 its
their property. Theyre 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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