Please squat in derelict flats, say neighbours

NEIGHBOURS of a derelict block of flats in West Hampstead are considering making an appeal to squatters for help after the property was broken into

Marc Mullen

NEIGHBOURS of a derelict block of flats in West Hampstead are considering making an appeal to squatters for help after the property was broken into.

Residents near the block on Lithos Road are furious their warnings about crime have been ignored by the One Housing Group which runs the building.

The eight flats have been empty since June and were ransacked by burglars in a raid on New Year's Eve.

A neighbour from the next door block, which is run by Paddington Churches Housing Association, said: "The communal front door has been smashed and all the flat front doors are bahed in.

"I was surprised the police didn't secure the place. They told me to call the housing association, and the guy didn't seem to care.

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"No one has been out to look at it. There are squatters in the old Mercedes garage on the Finchley Road. I was thinking about going round and asking them to come and look after these flats.

"To leave the flats empty and let them get damaged in this way is one thing, but then to just leave it like this, open to the elements, is disgraceful."

Until it was emptied last summer neighbours on Lithos Road said the block housed problem tenants.

In one incident police used a helicopter to find a man who was hiding on the roof of the block.

John Burr, who lives around the corner on the Finchley Road, said: "I have lived in this area for 25 years and saw them knock down old properties to build these new blocks. There were problems there but to have them empty is outrageous, given the shortage of houses in Camden."

Keith Moffitt, leader of Cam-den Council and West Hampstead councillor, said: "I have asked for an investigation into this.

"Housing is one of this administration's greatest priorities and it's obviously not acceptable for properties to be left sitting empty like this."

One Housing Group says the building had squatters who had to be moved on from the block last month. It also says the building will be renovated to provide housing for mothers with babies, and that it was secured after the contact from the Ham&High.

A spokeswoman said: "As part of the remodelling process the work was tendered which meant we were unable to appoint a contractor straight away.

"Despite this, the property is still due to be ready for occupation at the end of March 2008 and has now been secured to prevent further break-ins."

There are currently around 15,000 people on the waiting list for a council home in Camden.

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