Residents support squatters over Crown Estate evictions

5 September 2010

Squatters were evicted from Crown Estate properties in Gore and Skipworth Roads

Squatters clashed with bailiffs and police last month (Wednesday 11 August) over the controversial sell-off of the Crown Estate properties next to Victoria Park.

Six properties on Gore Road and Skipworth Road, which had been left empty for over two years, were occupied by squatters six months ago.

On 2 August, the Crown Estate won a possession order in court for the properties. However, they chose to carry out the evictions without giving prior warning to the squatters.

High Court bailiffs and Crown Estate officials turned up at 8am and entered 103 Gore Road via the back door. They went upstairs and woke the occupier, giving him half an hour to pack up his belongings and leave the property.

The evictions sparked a great deal of controversy because the Crown Estate is currently in the process of selling the freehold of 1,300 properties. For the past 80 years these properties have been used as key worker housing, making homes affordable for teachers, health workers, police officers and fire-fighters.

The sell-off, which will take place in five boroughs, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Camden, Westminster and Lewisham, has been criticised in parliament and a strong campaign has been led against it.

Crown Residents Against Sell Off claims that under new ownership, rents could be hiked up considerably. Security of their tenancy agreements could be lost, and people on short term contracts could be forced out of their homes within two months. They also fear that the strong community which exists locally would be destroyed.

The lack of notice angered the squatters as they claimed they were normally given at least five days’ warning of an eviction, so they had time to make other living arrangements. One house refused to let bailiffs into the property until they had gathered all their belongings. They argued that it was unfair to expect people to pack up six months’ worth of belongings in just 60 minutes.

The police were called.

By the time bailiffs and police got to the last house, 3 Skipworth Road, the squatters had barricaded themselves inside and were refusing to come out, arguing that affordable housing for key workers should be valued and prioritised.

Neighbours and community residents, carrying banners which read “Our community is not for sale” came out onto the street to back the squatters.

One local resident, who refused to be named, said she liked having the squatters there and that they were “helpful, friendly and responsible neighbours. She said the properties had been left empty by the Crown Estate, which was a risk to everybody, and that the squatters improved the area.

She also commented that “the squatters should have been granted a license to stay until the Crown decided what to do with the properties. The squatters were just young musicians looking for inexpensive living. They sang beautifully.”

Despite wrestling with the barricaded door, bailiffs were unable to gain access to the property. The stand-off between the bailiffs and squatters lasted around four hours, during which time supporters outside shouted “Shame on Crown Estates”.

Eventually bailiffs managed to gain access to the property and it was resecured.

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