Squatting couple's new des res is former nurses' home

SQUATTERS have taken over a former nurses hostel in the heart of Hampstead. The hostel in New End has been left to rot since 2006 when it was shut down after years of being home to nurses from the Royal Free Hospital. In March, developers Moon Investment

SQUATTERS have taken over a former nurses' hostel in the heart of Hampstead.

The hostel in New End has been left to rot since 2006 when it was shut down after years of being home to nurses from the Royal Free Hospital.

In March, developers Moon Investments Limited withdrew an application to demolish it and replace it with a six-storey building of 27 apartments with gym and pool.

But last month a Polish couple quietly moved into the huge building, which has fallen into disrepair.


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On Tuesday one of the suspected squatters, who refused to give his name, said: "It is only me and wife living here, just the two of us, no-one else."

The squatters have put their own chains and padlock on the gates to the hostel, as well as a small storage area where the man is believed to keep a motor scooter.

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Neighbours say he regularly heads off to work on the motorbike early in the morning, returning to his new home at 5pm.

Signs in the windows say the building is protected by First Security Guards.

But a spokesman told the Ham&High the company's contract ended when the hostel was sold by the Royal Free.

Marcello Manara, production manager at the New End theatre next door, said: "I figured out there were squatters there a while ago as I kept seeing them going over the fence. I have no objection to them being there. They don't have parties.

"They seem all right. They keep themselves to themselves."

Richard Wooderson, who runs the Duke of Hamilton pub two doors away, said: "I think it is a travesty, given the shortage of decent accommodation for nurses, that the building is not being used. Someone may as well use it."

In the past year, squatters have taken over a number of major landmarks in the area.

They include Fitzjohn's Avenue mansion, formerly used as bedsits for single women, and a former Mercedes showroom in Finchley Road.

The latter is set to be turned into the headquarters for the Jewish Community Centre for London.

Meanwhile there have been claims that squatters are receiving tips on how to break into empty properties and set up home without paying rent from a handbook which was seemingly connected to Camden Council.

The £2 book, issued by the Advisory Service for Squatters, gives tips on removing locks and offers legal advice including a suggestion that those caught breaking in to a property should claim they are "clearing drains".

The advisory service is linked to the council's website.

A council spokeswoman said: "We provide links on our website to a wide range of local organisations and advisory services, including groups that help homeless people.

"Whilst we display these links we do not endorse the content of any website.

"Camden Council does not endorse squatting and having been alerted to this website we have removed the link immediately.

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