Squatters occupy Britain’s most expensive council house on day it sells for £2.96m

Group say they are protesting against the selling off of social housing, and that they can’t ‘take council’s word’ money will be reinvested in homes

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The Independent Online

Squatters have occupied Britain’s most expensive council house – on the same day that it was sold at auction for nearly £3 million.

Proclaiming it a protest against the selling off of social housing, the group includes students, a roofer and an NGO worker, according to reports in the Evening Standard.

The 200-year-old Grade II-listed property, close to Borough Market in south London, went for £2.96 million in an “extremely competitive” auction by Savills that lasted only minutes.

The 5,500sq ft building covers numbers 21 and 23 Park Street in Borough and could make two family homes or be divided up into flats.

Today there were seven protesters, mostly in their 20s and 30s, occupying the premises. One shouted down from a top floor window to tell reporters they were “taking the occupation in shifts”.

A spokeswoman for the protest, 27-year-old bike mechanic Kate Sheldon, told the paper: “The borough has massive housing needs and it's madness to sell off the public housing.

“We can't take Southwark Council's word they will be build new houses in the future.

“The occupation is going to be as long as possible. We'll wait until Southwark gets a court order and then have a discussion about how to proceed.” She added that police had apparently left the squatters alone because they are engaged in a political protest.

Southwark Council says the house, which has stood empty for a number of years, would have required extensive and costly renovations before it could be used as social housing again.

Instead the property has been sold to one of a number of interested parties – described by Savills as “all sorts… foreign buyers including a gentleman from China, local people, owner occupiers and developers”. The auctioneer said it could not reveal the identity of the winning bidder, adding that they wanted to “remain very private about who they are”.

Richard Livingstone, Southwark Council's cabinet member for finance and resources, said yesterday: “The extraordinary sale of two void grade II listed houses for £2.96 million provides the opportunity to fund approximately 20 new council homes to be built to high standards and low energy costs.

“The money raised from this sale will help deliver our plan to build 11,000 new council homes in Southwark, one of the most ambitious schemes of its kind in the country.”