Proposed school site reclaimed from squatters

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Proposed school site reclaimed from squatters

Thursday April 18, 2013

Squatters have been turfed out of the Askham Road Family Centre in Shepherds Bush – clearing the way for the building to be transformed into a special school for children with autism.

More than 30 squatters were evicted by council contracted bailiffs, supported by the Police, on Tuesday (April 16).

The building is now set to become the new home of Queensmill School – which is currently based at Mund Street, in Fulham, and is a highly respected specialist unit for autistic children.

Neighbours say the first wave of squatters, who used electric screwdrivers to tear down plywood boards from the windows and doors to break in, arrived in February. There were allegations the squatters smashed car windows and played music late into the night disturbing nearby residents.

In September last year, so-called squatters' rights were ended and it became a criminal offence for individuals to take over residential properties. But squatting in a commercial building was retained as a civil offence, meaning landlords must still go through lengthy court procedures to secure removal orders.

Calling for a change in the law H&F Council Leader Cllr Nicholas Botterill said: “The law needs to be changed so that councils like us, who take a zero-tolerance approach, can evict squatters more speedily.

“Residents, who work hard and play by the rules, should not have to put up with squatters for months due to bureaucratic legal processes that can seem endless at times.”

Enhanced security, including guards and state of the art CCTV, is now in place on the site.

Cllr Botterill concludes: “Now that the Askham Centre has been reclaimed from the squatters, the process of transforming the old building into a specialist unit for autistic children can begin.”

Queensmill School is set to move in to the new building from September 2014.

Sergeant Rebecca Wells-Cole said: "Working in partnership with other agencies we were able to evict the squatters lawfully. This has enabled the builders to get into the property. The next phase will be to demolish it and to build a new school for autistic children. Having an autistic nephew, I am acutely aware of the need for such establishments, so feel happy that our work has enabled such a great project to begin."

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