Cllr Harry Phibbs writes
I am pleased that squatters have now been evicted from the Askham Road Family Centre allowing building work to proceed on it becoming a specialist school for autistic children. However I share the frustration of residents that the legal process took so long.
This government brought in a long overdue reform to make squatting a criminal offence in England and Wales (it has been one in Scotland since 1865). Yet the reform has not been implemented in full. For no very clear reason it only applies to residential buildings. This means that squatting remains merely a civil offence when other buildings are targeted. Police and property owners still don’t have the law on their side when it comes to squatters in non-residential buildings. If this changed, removing squatters would be a far more rapid and straightforward process.
There is no justification for squatting - least of all when the victims are vulnerable children. The government should be commended for tightening the law. Now it should complete the job and make squatting a criminal offence for all types of property.