Hampstead squatters occupy derelict shop in South End Road as developer heads to court
- Credit: Archant
A Hampstead landlord is taking court action to remove squatters from a derelict shop in South End Road.
Developer The Arch Company has applied for an injunction to remove the occupants of 37-39 South End Road, formerly Monica clothes shop, after the leaseholder was notified of squatters last Thursday (February 6).
High street food chain Pret a Manger is expected to move into the vacant commercial property, which has been empty for more than a-year-and-a-half, once Network Rail - owner of the site - has granted permission for repair works.
A spokesperson for The Arch Company said: "We are pursuing all legal options available to us to secure their removal as soon as possible.
"We have been actively marketing the property since it was vacated and have interest from a potential tenant (Pret).
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"As a responsible landlord, we are working to look after the interests of our tenants and local communities and investing in our property estate to bring hundreds of vacant arches back into use."
Squatting in a non-residential building is not a crime, unless damage is caused or an eviction notice has been served by the local authorities.
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South End Road resident Peter Marigold said care and consideration must be afforded to squatters who are often in a vulnerable position.
"I haven't seen any problems caused by the squatters so far and I walk past the derelict shop twice a day with my children. None whatsoever," he said, adding: "We have several long-term homeless people that I know in the local area, which is extremely sad. They sleep in doorways on the floor, even during winter and during storms. I'm guessing the squatters would like to have a home of their own so that they're not just sleeping on the street in the cold."
But Kamlesh Patel, owner of next-door shop Hampstead Heath Pharmacy, said he was concerned for the safety of his business.
He added: "It is an issue of security because you never know what can happen to my shop when I am not here at night."
Homelessness charity Shelter says squatting can lead to eviction and arrest, but is often a last resort.
More information on squatting can be found at www.shelter.org.uk.