I’ve been inundated with concerns that squatters have invaded the vacant Maison Blanc on Hampstead High Street for the last week or so.
That corner is already overflowing with rubbish on account of the Hampstead Creperie, and the extra waste that is being produced by the squatters is ending up all over the street. And squatting makes it impossible for a new prospective tenant to view the shop unit positively: ensuring it remains unused forever.
I have written before about squatters at the White Horse. While the Conservatives re-criminalised squatting in a residential property in 2012, squatting in a commercial property is a civil matter, not a criminal one.
However, there are lots of criminal offences that squatters can and often do commit. One is fly-tipping – they are not authorised to deposit waste on or near the site, and can thus be prosecuted for fly-tipping or given an on-the-spot fine (thanks to my successful campaign!) if they do.
Another is abstraction of electricity: ie using someone’s electricity supply without their permission. The electricity supply in the building has been restored and is in use, but clearly, that’s without the permission of Maison Blanc’s owners!
The police must use these powers to take swift action to end the squatting, and help Maison Blanc become occupied by commercial tenants again. Hampstead must not be seen to be a soft touch and invite more squatters. And further afield, the government should change the law to make squatting illegal in all properties.