LEYTONSTONE: Squatters occupy police station

The former Leytonstone Police Station building.

A young man enters the building. He refused to comment to the Guardian.

The view from under a gate into the station's backyard, where a caravan and car are parked.

First published in News East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Photograph of the Author by , Senior reporter

SQUATTERS who have moved into an empty police station say they are simply providing shelter for the homeless.

The group of about 20 men and women have moved into the building in Leytonstone High Road, which has not been used since it closed three years ago.

Waltham Forest Police have confirmed it has started a legal bid to evict the squatters, but a spokesman admitted it is not known how long the process will take.

One of the squatters, who refused to give his name and let the Guardian into the building, said: “We're providing a home for people that are homeless.

“We've got about 20 people living here but we're not exactly overcrowding the rooms.

“We're here side by side with no rules as such, but values. It's just a group of people looking for a home.

“But at the end of the day there's a lot less going on in here than when this used to be a police station.”

One woman, who also refused to be named, said: “We haven't heard anything from the police, we didn't know they had started legal proceedings.”

More than 10,000 local residents signed a petition against the station closure.

Staff were moved to Kirkdale Road in a move to “centralise” resources.

But the area has become synonymous with gang activity, with two recent non-fatal shootings and a number of stabbings.

There was a mixed reaction to the squatters from people living and working nearby.

Christine Whitbread, 56, lives in a flat overlooking the backyard of the station.

She said: “I want them to go. They've got at least three dogs which bark at all times, and they've been coming back really late at night and climbing on the walls.

“We don't need all that round here. It's bad enough with the drugs and the violence in Leytonstone.

“I feel sorry for them if they haven't got a home but if they need a home they should go to the council like everyone else.”

Michelle Olley, a barmaid at The Bell pub next door, said: “They haven't been any trouble. They've come in asking for clean water but we said no because we didn't want to encourage them.

“The electricity has always been on in that place so they seem pretty comfortable.

A police spokeswoman said: “The squatters are being evicted in accordance with legal process.”

Estate agent Strettons is currently trying to sell the building on behalf of the police.

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Comments (17)

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8:30am Tue 5 Oct 10

NT says...

Forget the squatters, the real story here is why this building has remained empty for nearly 4 years.
It used to be the HQ of the Cann Hall and Cathall Safer Neighbourhood Teams. Now they have to commute to work from outside the area.
Moreover, symbolically, its two fingers up to local people, a large empty building, in a prominent place, which many pass every day - a constant reminder of abandonment.
The coup de grace is that one of our local gangs now regularly congregates opposite.
It is a disaster whichever way you look at it, and is going to become a bigger and bigger local issue.
Forget the squatters, the real story here is why this building has remained empty for nearly 4 years. It used to be the HQ of the Cann Hall and Cathall Safer Neighbourhood Teams. Now they have to commute to work from outside the area. Moreover, symbolically, its two fingers up to local people, a large empty building, in a prominent place, which many pass every day - a constant reminder of abandonment. The coup de grace is that one of our local gangs now regularly congregates opposite. It is a disaster whichever way you look at it, and is going to become a bigger and bigger local issue. NT
  • Score: 0

9:35am Tue 5 Oct 10

Benjamin P says...

I'm sure that they won't, but I really hope that the squatters don't trash this building. This is an important landmark on the High St. So squatters, if you're reading this, please respect the building.

I agree with NT about the depressing fact that gangs of youth and winos seem to congregate opposite. They've actually been doing this for a while now and the Police haven't done anything to move them on.
Come on Police, pull your truncheons out and make this a safer neighbourhood!
I'm sure that they won't, but I really hope that the squatters don't trash this building. This is an important landmark on the High St. So squatters, if you're reading this, please respect the building. I agree with NT about the depressing fact that gangs of youth and winos seem to congregate opposite. They've actually been doing this for a while now and the Police haven't done anything to move them on. Come on Police, pull your truncheons out and make this a safer neighbourhood! Benjamin P
  • Score: 0

12:49pm Tue 5 Oct 10

rubberneck says...

Good luck to them, how the Government who are trying to get everyone to tighten their belt can leave this period property empty for years just shows how serious they take homelessness. There are too many buildings left empty and it takes a few squatters to give them a wake up call.
If they do cause damage they will be close to the cells anyway.
Good luck to them, how the Government who are trying to get everyone to tighten their belt can leave this period property empty for years just shows how serious they take homelessness. There are too many buildings left empty and it takes a few squatters to give them a wake up call. If they do cause damage they will be close to the cells anyway. rubberneck
  • Score: 0

1:25pm Tue 5 Oct 10

reality-bites says...

Don't tell me, - They found an open ground floor window.! Hahahaha! - come on they broke in - i thought that was illegal? are the police still so,.... so, naive?
All over london squatting is easyly the cheapest way for Gordon Browns Eastern Europeans and new age 'protesters' to piggy back on society.

I wonder what company is supplying the Leccy?
Don't tell me, - They found an open ground floor window.! Hahahaha! - come on they broke in - i thought that was illegal? are the police still so,.... so, naive? All over london squatting is easyly the cheapest way for Gordon Browns Eastern Europeans and new age 'protesters' to piggy back on society. I wonder what company is supplying the Leccy? reality-bites
  • Score: 0

2:47pm Tue 5 Oct 10

A&T says...

reality-bites, never mind what company is supplying the leccy, I'd like to know who's paying for it, its been on since the Police left years ago.
As a resident living nearby I hope they get rid of these people as soon as possible. As someone said, if they havent got a home they should go to the council and pay rent like the rest of us.
reality-bites, never mind what company is supplying the leccy, I'd like to know who's paying for it, its been on since the Police left years ago. As a resident living nearby I hope they get rid of these people as soon as possible. As someone said, if they havent got a home they should go to the council and pay rent like the rest of us. A&T
  • Score: 0

3:05pm Tue 5 Oct 10

rubberneck says...

A&T wrote:
reality-bites, never mind what company is supplying the leccy, I'd like to know who's paying for it, its been on since the Police left years ago. As a resident living nearby I hope they get rid of these people as soon as possible. As someone said, if they havent got a home they should go to the council and pay rent like the rest of us.
Please be more understanding instead of a Nimby, let us hope we do not fall on hard times like them!
[quote][p][bold]A&T[/bold] wrote: reality-bites, never mind what company is supplying the leccy, I'd like to know who's paying for it, its been on since the Police left years ago. As a resident living nearby I hope they get rid of these people as soon as possible. As someone said, if they havent got a home they should go to the council and pay rent like the rest of us.[/p][/quote]Please be more understanding instead of a Nimby, let us hope we do not fall on hard times like them! rubberneck
  • Score: 0

12:38am Wed 6 Oct 10

Redfox says...

Who cares? It's another really great story and a tremendous thump in the eye for Labour's Waltham Forest's run council hoping (against hope for some time) to get good 'PR' for being a host 2012 London borough - just over a mile away in Ruckholt Road.
Any quotes yet from Red Robbo or Lobby Loakes?
Who cares? It's another really great story and a tremendous thump in the eye for Labour's Waltham Forest's run council hoping (against hope for some time) to get good 'PR' for being a host 2012 London borough - just over a mile away in Ruckholt Road. Any quotes yet from Red Robbo or Lobby Loakes? Redfox
  • Score: 0

3:35am Wed 6 Oct 10

EducateCommunities says...

Benjamin P wrote:
I'm sure that they won't, but I really hope that the squatters don't trash this building. This is an important landmark on the High St. So squatters, if you're reading this, please respect the building.

I agree with NT about the depressing fact that gangs of youth and winos seem to congregate opposite. They've actually been doing this for a while now and the Police haven't done anything to move them on.
Come on Police, pull your truncheons out and make this a safer neighbourhood!
As Benjamin & NT rightly point out this is a landmark location and is sending the wrong message to the community.

The Police & Safer Neighbourhood Teams have in effect shown no understanding of the knock on effects of this closure.

This is like an episode of the Wire brought to the streets of East London.
With the lack of expired CCTV and leaving this police station in a prime location to rot it will only encourage a rise in crime.

Councillor Liaquat Ali and Councilor Chris Robbins seem to not really understand the role of community safety as they along with Borough Commander Steve Wisbey run safety net. Which has a remit to serve and protect our communities not abandon them.
[quote][p][bold]Benjamin P[/bold] wrote: I'm sure that they won't, but I really hope that the squatters don't trash this building. This is an important landmark on the High St. So squatters, if you're reading this, please respect the building. I agree with NT about the depressing fact that gangs of youth and winos seem to congregate opposite. They've actually been doing this for a while now and the Police haven't done anything to move them on. Come on Police, pull your truncheons out and make this a safer neighbourhood![/p][/quote]As Benjamin & NT rightly point out this is a landmark location and is sending the wrong message to the community. The Police & Safer Neighbourhood Teams have in effect shown no understanding of the knock on effects of this closure. This is like an episode of the Wire brought to the streets of East London. With the lack of expired CCTV and leaving this police station in a prime location to rot it will only encourage a rise in crime. Councillor Liaquat Ali and Councilor Chris Robbins seem to not really understand the role of community safety as they along with Borough Commander Steve Wisbey run safety net. Which has a remit to serve and protect our communities not abandon them. EducateCommunities
  • Score: 0

4:16am Wed 6 Oct 10

Phoney Investigations says...

Just another example of the disorder and chaos of today's Britain! But who cares? Certainly few of the politicians now infesting Westminster or the fools issuing nonsensical edicts from Brussels! If the police aren't allowed to protect this particular piece of unoccupied private property it won't be too long before house owners will be afraid to go on holiday or even go out shopping is this lawless squatting is allowed to continue! Wake up England!
Just another example of the disorder and chaos of today's Britain! But who cares? Certainly few of the politicians now infesting Westminster or the fools issuing nonsensical edicts from Brussels! If the police aren't allowed to protect this particular piece of unoccupied private property it won't be too long before house owners will be afraid to go on holiday or even go out shopping is this lawless squatting is allowed to continue! Wake up England! Phoney Investigations
  • Score: 0

7:35am Wed 6 Oct 10

rubberneck says...

What makes me laugh is they 'protected' the building with cheap boarding up method wjich went out with the Ark instead of the metal boarding, maybe they wanted squatters in so any subsequent planning application sailed through?
happens up and down the UK and agree with Victoria above!
What makes me laugh is they 'protected' the building with cheap boarding up method wjich went out with the Ark instead of the metal boarding, maybe they wanted squatters in so any subsequent planning application sailed through? happens up and down the UK and agree with Victoria above! rubberneck
  • Score: 0

1:28pm Wed 6 Oct 10

reality-bites says...

They are not squatters if they broke in! .....and they broke in. Breaking and entering is an immediate arrestable offence. The only conclusion we have to come to is, the police are not doing the job they are paid to do.

All squatter websites give tips on how to break into a house and make it look like they have not! and how to replace windows and locks. And there are a lot of squatter websites! The system is so laughable we are starting to look at anyone in power or law as a joke!
They are not squatters if they broke in! .....and they broke in. Breaking and entering is an immediate arrestable offence. The only conclusion we have to come to is, the police are not doing the job they are paid to do. All squatter websites give tips on how to break into a house and make it look like they have not! and how to replace windows and locks. And there are a lot of squatter websites! The system is so laughable we are starting to look at anyone in power or law as a joke! reality-bites
  • Score: 0

2:11pm Wed 6 Oct 10

off the hook says...

Good luck to them. It's a disgrace that there are empty buildings around when people are struggling to find decent housing.

Rather than evict them, the owners should be paying them to stay. Empty buildings become a haven for pests and fall into disrepair, especially over the colder months.
Good luck to them. It's a disgrace that there are empty buildings around when people are struggling to find decent housing. Rather than evict them, the owners should be paying them to stay. Empty buildings become a haven for pests and fall into disrepair, especially over the colder months. off the hook
  • Score: 0

12:31pm Thu 7 Oct 10

Earle Martin says...

EducateCommunities: "This is like an episode of the Wire brought to the streets of East London."

How amazingly melodramatic. There are squatted buildings all over this city. Perhaps you should spend more time outside and less in front of the television.
EducateCommunities: "This is like an episode of the Wire brought to the streets of East London." How amazingly melodramatic. There are squatted buildings all over this city. Perhaps you should spend more time outside and less in front of the television. Earle Martin
  • Score: 0

4:39pm Thu 7 Oct 10

ftsefaller says...

The squatters aren't the real issue here.

What this story highlights is *why the hell is it empty* - particularly when the Met are trying to establish an Olympic base on Wanstead flats less than a mile away! This building is still in their ownership - why can they not just reopen it and have their Olympic base there.

They have already missed the boat on selling it to a developer at an inflated price. Selling it on now would be pointless...
The squatters aren't the real issue here. What this story highlights is *why the hell is it empty* - particularly when the Met are trying to establish an Olympic base on Wanstead flats less than a mile away! This building is still in their ownership - why can they not just reopen it and have their Olympic base there. They have already missed the boat on selling it to a developer at an inflated price. Selling it on now would be pointless... ftsefaller
  • Score: 0

9:22pm Thu 7 Oct 10

rubberneck says...

It would be good if
It would be good if rubberneck
  • Score: 0

9:09pm Mon 11 Oct 10

EducateCommunities says...

I was highlighting that the police abandoned the station as they abandoned a area in the series the Wire.

Not disputing squatted buildings but shame you never mentioned anything about the other points in my statement.

You clearly missed the point I would rather watch the Wire than X Factor my friend. As a film maker that would require me to actually spending more time making than watching and of course researching on the streets.

I suggest you stick to east enders bruv.
I was highlighting that the police abandoned the station as they abandoned a area in the series the Wire. Not disputing squatted buildings but shame you never mentioned anything about the other points in my statement. You clearly missed the point I would rather watch the Wire than X Factor my friend. As a film maker that would require me to actually spending more time making than watching and of course researching on the streets. I suggest you stick to east enders bruv. EducateCommunities
  • Score: 0

4:46am Tue 12 Oct 10

Ether says...

Phoney Investigations wrote:
Just another example of the disorder and chaos of today's Britain! But who cares? Certainly few of the politicians now infesting Westminster or the fools issuing nonsensical edicts from Brussels! If the police aren't allowed to protect this particular piece of unoccupied private property it won't be too long before house owners will be afraid to go on holiday or even go out shopping is this lawless squatting is allowed to continue! Wake up England!
Thats just foundless scaremongering.
Squatting isn't lawless, it follows legal procedures (hence the police starting legal proceedings to move the squatters out). If there is a 'protected intending occupier' or 'displaced residential occupier', that is someone is about to move in, move back in or currently lives there, then the owners and police are allowed to force there way in and evict/arrest the squatters immediately with no need for a court order and court appointed bailiffs.

Therefore squatters are only using buildings that would otherwise be empty, sure if you pay rent (like myself) you may have the attitude "they should have too aswell", but who would that really benefit? another rich landlord in 99% of cases... and who would be paying the money to this rich landlord? tax payers via housing benefit!

So I think I'd rather they squat TBH.
[quote][p][bold]Phoney Investigations[/bold] wrote: Just another example of the disorder and chaos of today's Britain! But who cares? Certainly few of the politicians now infesting Westminster or the fools issuing nonsensical edicts from Brussels! If the police aren't allowed to protect this particular piece of unoccupied private property it won't be too long before house owners will be afraid to go on holiday or even go out shopping is this lawless squatting is allowed to continue! Wake up England![/p][/quote]Thats just foundless scaremongering. Squatting isn't lawless, it follows legal procedures (hence the police starting legal proceedings to move the squatters out). If there is a 'protected intending occupier' or 'displaced residential occupier', that is someone is about to move in, move back in or currently lives there, then the owners and police are allowed to force there way in and evict/arrest the squatters immediately with no need for a court order and court appointed bailiffs. Therefore squatters are only using buildings that would otherwise be empty, sure if you pay rent (like myself) you may have the attitude "they should have too aswell", but who would that really benefit? another rich landlord in 99% of cases... and who would be paying the money to this rich landlord? tax payers via housing benefit! So I think I'd rather they squat TBH. Ether
  • Score: 0

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