A worrying an unpleasant week for local residents with an invasion of squatters at the site of the old Ravenscourt Park Hospital. This is the rubbish that has accumulated after just a couple of days. Already there is a stench of sewage. Traffic wardens from the Council have refused to issue parking tickets to dump trucks spilling over from the site into surrounding streets – I have asked for an explanation.
As stated before it is regrettable that development of the site has taken so long. But the responsibility for the squatting is with the squatters. If the squatting was on residential land the police would be able to act immediately as such squatting is now a criminal offence. That is thanks to a change in the law in 2012 thanks to the efforts of Mike Weatherley, who was then the Conservative MP for Hove. In Scotland squatting has been a criminal offence since 1865. The trouble is that as the land is non-residential it is a civil matter, the police can do nothing and eviction is delayed. The owners assure me they will go to court to seek this as soon as possible.
What is needed is for the law to be changed for all squatting to be a criminal offence and for property rights to be upheld.
This is not the first time we have had problems in this borough due to this legal reform stopping short of its logical conclusion.
Here is quote from a piece I wrote for Standpoint magazine three years ago.
“Some try to justify squatting on the grounds that squatters have no alternative. But those who are working could pay rent while those on low pay or unemployed would be eligible for housing benefit. In any case, what basis can there be of taking something from somebody else on the basis that they have it and you want it? Would that principle be applied to stealing food or a car?
“Squatting has long been as much about making a political statement as about a genuine housing need. Thus middle-class youths, who could probably afford to pay for their own housing, often seek the radical chic of an “alternative” lifestyle as their protest against capitalism.
“That the law needs to be tightened is shown by a current case in Hammersmith and Fulham, where I am a councillor. Squatters have taken over a family centre in Shepherd’s Bush. As it is not designated a residential building, the police do not have the power to execute an eviction. It is a civil offence and there has been a long delay while the council obtains a court order. Council taxpayers’ money is diverted from providing services to paying for lawyers. The building is scheduled to be adapted as a specialist school for autistic children. The work is being delayed and disrupted by the squatters, whose presence is also intimidating to local residents.”