Squatting investigation – part one
In 2010 the newly elected Conservative MP for Hove – Mike Weatherley – began a campaign to criminalise squatting after several high profiles incidences in Brighton and Hove.
Brighton’s reputation as a centre of alternative culture has long made it a popular squat spot. Countless buildings have been occupied including the old beach chalets and the West Pier – this condemned at the time by the leader of the city council, Lord Bassam, despite his own squatting past.
The evocatively-named Nicholas van Hoogstraten is a local property tycoon whose robust methods of dealing with squatters has affirmed him legendary status.
After the Justice Secretary Ken Clarke gave his official backing to the campaign, squatting looks set to become a criminal offence in the New Year. Opinion is divided. Some say it will merely exacerbate the housing shortage while also criminalising vulnerable people and stifling melting pots of creativity. Others, that this is legislation long overdue.
Below is an interview I conducted in a squat in Kemptown the day before it was forcibly emptied by court order. The squatter’s name has been changed.