New powers of eviction don't scare off squatters reopening shut library
Charlie Cooper is Health Correspondent for The Independent, i, and The Independent on Sunday, writing on the NHS, medical advances, and international health. Since joining the papers as an editorial assistant, he has been nominated for young journalist of the year at both the Press Awards and the British Journalism Awards.
Thursday 13 September 2012
A London council has become the first to use a new anti-squatting law to reclaim a home from an unauthorised occupant.
Powers that came into effect on 1 September allow local authorities to call in the police to arrest squatters, rather than pursuing civil eviction proceedings through the courts.
Westminster City Council's housing management provider, CityWest Homes, contacted the police about a squatted flat on the Lisson Green estate within days of the provisions becoming law.
Police asked for the squatter to be given prior warning and when they arrived at the north-west London flat, he had left with his belongings.
Meanwhile at another London address, community-minded squatters have taken over a closed library in order to lend books to the public. The group has reopened Friern Barnet library five months after it was closed down as part of Barnet council's cost-cutting moves. The group says they are acting "community librarians".
One of the squatters, Dan, 31, said: "Libraries are cultural h ubs, there are lots of reasons why people need them. People need to read books — even in the age of the internet, libraries are really crucial."
The closure followed a local campaign which opposed plans for a merger with North Finchley library.
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