Squatting fightback in Redbridge wins support

An anti-squatting petition in Redbridge has attracted nearly 1,500 signatures in under a month as the council seeks to advise homeowners on how to tackle the problem.

Groups of around 50 people have been reported squatting in empty homes around Ilford prompting concerned residents to fight back.

Susan Dixon, of Coventry Road – who saw people temporarily move into a neighbouring property in November – and Cllr Aziz Choudhury, of Valentines ward, started the petition on December 2 calling on the government to criminalise squatting.

Ms Dixon said: “I’ve discovered it’s a huge problem in Ilford. The support has been amazing. People are stopping us in the street and asking if they can sign up.”

The Recorder has been told of squats in Brisbane Road, Cavenham Gardens, Green Lane, Littlemoor Road and Thorold Road. Around 20 were evicted from Gordon Road, Ilford, on December 5 while Cllr Choudhury says a group has taken over a building in Courtland Avenue.

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The petition will be debated at a full council meeting if, as is expected, it receives 1,500 signatures. Campaigners are keen to make a number of recommendations to the council. These include setting up a working group with affected residents and getting area committees to prioritise the problem.

Redbridge Council says it is working closely with owners of empty properties to bring them back into use and sharing lists of empty properties with safer neighbourhood teams.

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A spokesman advised homeowners to take steps, such as hanging curtains or maintaining gardens, to make an empty property appear lived-in.

To sign the petition, contact Cllr Choudhury on 020 8708 9084 or email cllr.choudhury@redbridge.gov.uk. Details of empty homes should be emailed to empty.homes@redbridge.gov.uk.

The council’s powers on squatters are limited because it cannot seek an eviction from a private property.

In severe cases where it is dangerous for squatters to live there, it can serve a notice calling on the owner to gain an eviction.

For council-owned properties, it can seek an eviction itself though a spokesman admitted this is a long and complex process.

Anyone concerned about a child at risk through living in an unsuitable property should contact the child protection assessment team on 020 8708 3885.

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