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.

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Posted on September 7, 2011, in Investigation and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Really enjoyed this. Very interesting subject, and nice bit of mixed media! :P
    Not sure I agree with him though. If he had to work all day he couldn’t live the lifestyle he wants to live?? umm…well, yeah mate. I think we all feel a bit like that.
    I mean, am I missing something here?

    • Lots of idealistic thinking all round here. I replayed several times his comment about it being morally wrong, essentially, to charge rent for a property once it is habitable. Naive beyond belief – Berkeley Homes builds a house, rents it out until the costs are just recouped, then hands it over to the tenant? Not in this life anyway – capitalism may be unpalatable but while the rest of us rub along with it one bloke in a squat will have to do more than make a bleary-eyed observation to change the world.
      And, as above, his idealism becomes laughable once he whines about potentially being out all day from his ideal pad if he has to earn the rent money. A caricature squatter who has nevertheless irritated me and made me think – good journalism.

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