Streatham MP Chuka Umunna is calling for a change in the law
Commercial property squatters in Lambeth have ignited a fierce debate about whether they should be evicted.
Chuka Umunna, MP for Streatham, today called for ‘the law on squatting in commercial property to be toughened up’.
He used the example of the squatters of a building on Sunnyhill Road, Streatham, which houses around 15 squatters. Last year the law changed to make residential squatting illegal, but it is still legal in commercial properties.
Andy Thomas owns Thomas Clark Cleaners opposite the squatters. He described them as ‘quite discreet’, and says he has not really been affected.
“They mind their own business, their only crime is letting their dogs foul the footpath,” he said.
But residents around the squat are not happy, complaining of loud music at night.
“You can hear the music through my double glazing,” said Susan Bristol, who lives opposite.
The squatters believe they are acting within the law.
“We’re not doing anything wrong. This is commercial property,” said one squatter to the standard.
Mr Umunna, Lambeth Council leader Lib Peck, and Dulwich and West Norwood MP Dame Tessa Jowell are seeking to change the law. Last Tuesday they sent a strongly worded letter to Chris Grayling calling on the Secretary of State for Justice to make commercial property squatting illegal.
The letter states: “Lambeth has seen an increase in the number of squatters now specifically targeting non-residential buildings. We are writing in support of a change to the law to cover commercial properties.”
The call comes after the council faces a £150,000 bill after squatters vandalised an ex-library Nettlefold Hall in West Norwood.
Photo courtesy of AnthonyMck, with thanks.
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