A GROUP of squatters have moved into an empty building in Wanstead High Street.

The old Barclays Bank building in High Street was occupied by a group of around 20 people in the early hours of this morning (Wednesday June 15).

People living in the two flats above the empty building heard “unusual” noises at around 2.30am and have expressed major concerns over how they got in.

One of the group, a 25-year-old artist called Indi, said she and her friends do not want to cause any trouble and hope to get on peacefully with their new neighbours.

She said: “We are just a bunch of young creative people looking to make a political statement about the right to occupy unused buildings.

“There is a massive housing crisis with more and more people being made homeless all the time, so it seems a bit hypocritical to say 20 people can’t find a home in an empty building.”

She explained that the group met at the Occupy protest, which saw St Paul’s Cathedral in central London occupied by squatters in an anti-capitalist demonstration for almost a year in 2011.

She added: “We’ve squatted in places all over east London – Stratford, Bethnal Green, the empty Waltham Forest College building in Walthamstow – loads of places.

“It seems like quite a cool neighbourhood and people seem to be pretty friendly.”

But a father-of-five called Jamshed who lives above the new squat in High Street says he is “very distressed” that the group appear to have got in using his private door.

The 35-year-old said: “These people have come inside our property when my wife and children were vulnerable inside.

“My 10-year-old son went outside at around 6am and came back in saying it smelt funny and there were people there.

“When I went out there to check what was happening there was a strong smell of cannabis and all these people with loads of their stuff.

“I understand they want to make a statement, but if you’ve got nothing to hide then tell us who you are.”

After police visited the site earlier today, the squatters put a sign on the door with a police Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) number to assure neighbours they had been informed.

Jamshed said he decided to stay home from work to make sure his family were safe.

He added: “My daughter suffers with uncontrollable seizures and I have fibromyalgia, which means I am in constant pain and can feel very vulnerable and distressed.

“I didn’t want to leave my family vulnerable. When you smell drugs and you have children you have to be careful.

“Some of them seem friendly, but they refuse to say who they are so we can’t trust they have good intentions.”

Indi said the group hoped to stay in Wanstead as long as possible.

She said: “We have a legal right to be here and nowhere else to go.We want to stay here as long as we possibly can.”