Bailiffs evict squatters from empty Maida Vale school

Bailiffs finally brought an end to the plight of the Maida Vale squatters yesterday, three weeks after the group moved into a vacant school building.

The squatters entered the unused City of Westminster College Maida Vale Centre in Elgin Avenue last month and said they wanted to restore the premises for local community use.

The group, who called themselves “caretakers” and operated a no drink and drugs policy, opened the doors to the building last weekend for neighbours to take part in art workshops, yoga classes and other activities.

But the college obtained a High Court possession order giving the squatters notice to leave and bailiffs were sent in at about 9.30am yesterday (Wednesday) morning.

Up to 10 bailiffs entered the site and the squatters cooperated with their demands for them to leave, moving their belongings onto the pavement outside before leaving peacefully.

Squatter spokesman Frank Freeman, 25, said the group had been planning on leaving of its own accord at the start of next week.

“We would have left at a reasonable time but we weren’t given that time which is why it has come to this,” he said.

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“We got rudely awoken by the bailiffs and now some of us have nowhere to go. Apart from the bailiffs bashing down the door there was no violence.”

A fellow squatter, who gave his name as John Smith, 27, said: “We had intentions to do good things with the building and utilise the space to put it back to community use. It’s a pretty big, functional building yet it’s not being used.

“Maybe this will encourage the local people to ask what the college has been doing with an empty building for so long.”

The site has been empty for more than a year but the college says it is scheduled for a �10million refurbishment to reopen in 2013.

A college spokeswoman said: “While the college is pleased that this situation is now resolved peacefully, it is regrettable that – through their actions – this group of squatters have caused both concern to local residents and unnecessary expense to the college.”

She added: “Now that Maida Vale Centre is back in the college’s possession, there will be an immediate assessment of the damage, if any, caused to the fabric and contents of the building. We will also install 24-hour security to ensure its continued integrity.”