Squatters' leader lays claim to £400,000 house

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The Independent Online

A PROMINENT squatters' rights campaigner has claimed ownership of a four-storey house worth up to £400,000, in which he says he has lived for 12 years.

A PROMINENT squatters' rights campaigner has claimed ownership of a four-storey house worth up to £400,000, in which he says he has lived for 12 years.

The house is owned by Lambeth council in south London, which is now trying to evict the man so the house can be sold. The move follows a controversial High Court ruling against the same council this summer, when another squatter was granted ownership of a house in Brixton, worth around £200,000.

The current case centres on Michael Stewart, 57, also known as Michael Archangel and Michael XX, whose action group gained notoriety in 1975 after it occupied a house previously owned by Michael Heseltine. The group, called Mustard - the Multi-racial Union of Squatters To Alleviate Racial Discrimination - wasevicted from the property in Notting Hill by police after a long-running protest. Stewart was fined with a suspended jail sentence for obstructing police.

In the latest case, Lambeth began proceedings after discovering that it owned the property. The council disputes Mr Stewart's claim that he has occupied it for so long, believing that for some of the period he was living in Australia.

The house is on a now-fashionable street but, with a 5ft totem pole in the garden, graffiti and a broken fence, it stands in contrast to its neighbours.

The council is facing disputed claims over a further 20 properties that it owns and is keen to sell to developers. Property prices in London rose by 20 per cent in the past year, according to a survey this week.

In a separate case in Hackney, east London, a group of 60 squatters was handed the keys to two whole streets of terraced houses, worth up to £4.4m.

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