Campaigners tell Redbridge council of ‘overwhelming’ support to criminalise squatting

Campaigners in Redbridge affected by squatting took their cause to Redbridge Town Hall last night.

The borough’s councillors heard an impassioned speech from campaign organiser Susan Dixon, of Coventry Road, Ilford, and debated a petition calling on them to lobby the government to criminalise squatting.

Ms Dixon told councillors and members of the public at the meeting at the Town Hall, High Road, Ilford, that the petition, signed by 1,968 people, had “overwhelming” support.

She said Redbridge is being affected by a different type of squatting.

Mrs Dixon said: “We are talking about groups of up to 50 people at a time in each house who have an organised network.

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“We have witnessed their casual attitude when evicted – they are not worried – their next target has been identified.”

She also spoke of a Redbridge homeowner who faces �20,000 in repairs to his home after dealing with squatters and a drop in his property’s value of �35,000.

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The council welcomed a proposed Parliamentary measure to criminalise squatting in homes and resolved to write to all four local MPs asking them to support the new legislation when it comes to the House of Commons shortly.

They also accepted the report of council officers which rejected setting up a borough-wide working group to examine the problem.

The council report said: “The problems caused by squatting are not related to the act of squatting itself but relates mostly to the anti-social behaviour of the occupants.

“There may be occasions when squatters occupying a property would be preferable to leaving it empty and open to vandalism and deterioration.”

Councillors said the petition would be referred to local MPs and a scrutiny committee.

Cllr Robin Turbefield, the cabinet member for housing, said advice on squatting would be going up on the council’s website and that officers would help residents to secure their properties along with other practical measures.

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