Squatters evicted from Church Walk House in Barnet
- Credit: Archant
Squatters were evicted this week from a former care home in Childs Hill after the housing association which owns it obtained a court order.
Church Walk House was occupied for a fortnight by a group known as the Camden Mothership, who moved to the Barnet building after being evicted from disused Camden Council offices.
The former care home is being sold to a private developer by owners, the Central and Cecil Housing Trust (CCHT), for an expected £12million.
The housing association obtained Church Walk House for the token sum of £1 from the Hendon Old People’s Housing Trust (HOPHT) in 2011 and ran it as a care home for just two years before closing it down.
CCHT’s decision to shut the home and sell it on the open market sparked controversy because of its charitable status as a housing association.
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The Mothership group attempted to negotiate a “meanwhile lease” on the empty building so members could use it as a temporary community centre, but CCHT were unwilling to hold discussions with the occupants.
A member of Mothership, who gave his name as Daniel, said he was disappointed but not surprised with the swift court action taken by CCHT.
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He said: “They want their £12 million, don’t they? All we want is to be allowed to use empty buildings to provide emergency housing and community facilities.
“This housing association is supposed to be a charity. How can it be right that they have bought this building for a pound, saying they are going to run it as a care home, and after just a couple of years, they are flogging it off for a huge sum?”
A spokesman for CCHT said that the squatters’ presence in Church Walk was obstructing the sale of the building, and that they were left with no choice but to seek a court order.
The spokesman added that they took over the care home from HOPHT, which was in financial difficulty, on the mutual understanding that the facilities were no longer fit for purpose and would eventually need to be replaced.
The spokesman said: “We initially sought to knock down and rebuild better facilities for older people on the site, in line with our charitable objectives, but were unable to do so due to local resident objections.
“As a charitable housing provider, we provide sheltered and supported housing for vulnerable people across London. The proceeds of the sale of Church Walk House will be channelled back into delivering those services, and helping people.”
CCHT said that if there are homeless people amongst the squatters, they are welcome to apply directly to them for support and advice.
Mothership’s leader, known as Phoenix, said the group would like to hear from anyone who will grant temporary use of an empty building over the festive period, so the group can provide Christmas dinner for homeless people.
The group has had high profile support from Piers Corbyn, brother of Labour leader Jeremy, and from former MP, George Galloway, in its quest to make good use of the UK’s 1.5 million empty buildings.