Search

Two arrested as police raid squatting protest in Gospel Oak

15:57 26 February 2014

Police force entry into property in Southampton Road as protesters refuse to leave. Picture: Polly Hancock

Police force entry into property in Southampton Road as protesters refuse to leave. Picture: Polly Hancock

Archant

Two protesters have been arrested as a stand-off with Camden police ended in officers smashing their way into a council-owned property.

Scene outside Southampton Road property as police try to make contact with the protesters occupying the upstairs flat. Picture: Polly HancockScene outside Southampton Road property as police try to make contact with the protesters occupying the upstairs flat. Picture: Polly Hancock

Police stormed the house in Southampton Road, Gospel Oak, after campaigners from the Camden Housing Action Group staged an occupation.

They were protesting against what they claimed was a broken promise by the council not to sell off any council housing – something Camden Council strongly denies.

Three council-owned properties were sold off at auction for a total of £2.38million on Monday after an “independent survey” claimed extensive structural and refurbishment work was needed to bring them back into use.

Incensed that private developers would be taking over council-owned property, the housing campaigners gained entrance to one of the properties, hoisted up banners and announced they were staging an occupation.

Police lead one of the protesters away in handcuffs. Picture: Polly HancockPolice lead one of the protesters away in handcuffs. Picture: Polly Hancock

Tom Hunter, a member of the Camden Housing Action Group, said the council’s “broken promises” prompted the protest.

“The council made a commitment not to sell off council houses,” he said.

“We’ve got 25,000 people on a waiting list to be housed so the last thing we need is the council to sell off its properties.

“Selling to private developers will only raise prices of surrounding properties and hasten the already rapid social cleansing and gentrification we’re seeing in Camden.

“We’ve had great support from people passing our occupation – the housing crisis in London really strikes a chord with the public.”

But Cllr Theo Blackwell, cabinet member for finance, said protesters had “grasped the wrong end of the stick”.

“Camden Council is building council homes, not flogging them,” he said. “All three of these are old commercial properties which have remained empty since the end of their leases.

“The attached flats were never used as council homes and were rented with the commercial units below to the people who ran the shops. In an ideal world we wouldn’t have to sell off properties like these but we can do more with the money we’ve now raised.

“Funds from their sale and other projects will now be used to help fund 1,100 new council homes, right now, as well as helping to make repairs to existing council homes.”

The campaigners said they were also protesting Section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act, which criminalises squatting in abandoned residential properties.

Anna Gardener, another member of the group, said: “By using the building as a protest occupation, Section 144 cannot be applied.

“We want to show the importance of being able to still use abandoned residential buildings for community protests such as ours.”

As police wrestled two of the group’s members to the ground, they were then arrested.

Fatima Pita, 28 and Filipo Yanis-Nikou, 27, are both set to appear at Highbury Corner Magistrates court charged with trespassing in a residential building.

While the council’s properties services team informed the police of the occupation, Cllr Blackwell said he was not personally in favour of the prosecution of protesters.

Latest News Stories

Yesterday, 16:54
BBC director general Tony Hall declared his support for votes at 16 at a talk at La Sainte Union school

The director general of the BBC declared his support for changing the voting age to 16 during a talk to school pupils in Camden today.

Yesterday, 17:00
Cllr Theo Blackwell.

Council tax in Camden will rise by 40p a week from next month as the council signed off the first hike in the levy for six years.

Yesterday, 15:00
Freddie Poser (left) and Zak Cutner. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

Two teenage schoolboys have created a Tinder-style smartphone app, linked to politicians’ Twitter accounts, to engage young people with politics ahead of the general election.

Yesterday, 15:00
Cllr Julian Fulbrook.

Leaseholders calling for Camden Council to halt plans to install a new communal heating system on their housing estate have had their appeal rejected.

Most read news

Property Newsletter Sign-up

The latest North London property news and features straight into your inbox.

Other Emails:
Fields marked with a * are mandatory
Email Marketing by e-shot

MPs have warned that the police are storing pictures of suspects taken into custody, even if they’re totally innocent.

No one was hurt in the crash, and officials have started to investigate what caused it.

The dog was treated pretty well in the whole robbery situation.

Digital Edition

Image
Read the Hampstead & Highgate Express e-edition today E-edition
Family Notices 24
Our trusted business finder