Squatters take over £1m mansion

AUDACIOUS squatters were today relaxing in the luxury of a £1.1million retreat after seizing a chance while the property lay vacant.

John Howard

AUDACIOUS squatters were today relaxing in the luxury of a £1.1million retreat after seizing a chance while the property lay vacant.

The group of six decided to waltz into the seven bedroom country house near Stowmarket while it was up for sale.

The squatters have taken over spacious retreat Broad Oak at the heart of picturesque Great Finborough, a community with a village green, historic pub, post office and shop where the legendary late DJ John Peel made his home.


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They are now enjoying free reign of the exclusive 1860s Victorian mansion, with includes some Gothic features and is set amidst almost six stunning acres.

Until 1936 it formed part of the Finborough Hall Estate and the magnificent residence boasts:

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- A main house on four floors with five reception rooms, a large family kitchen, service accommodation, seven bedrooms and a cellar, divided into three areas.

- Period rooms with high ceilings and large windows, a 20 foot sun room and en-suite facilities.

- A separate staff cottage, offering two bedroom accommodation.

A property expert said: “Of particular note within the recent works are the kitchen, which has been refitted but allowed to retain the Aga, and the en-suite bathroom in a very modern style.

“It is approached by a wide driveway, and enjoys immediate gardens, and further potential paddocks, featuring a modern recently built stable block.”

Suffolk Constabulary today said the arrival of the squatters was linked to other incidents in the area.

John Matthissen, who lives in the village and is a local Green mid Suffolk district councillor, said: “An old boy had lived at Broad Oak for years and it was being redeveloped.

“Officers tell us it is basically youngsters, breaking out for the holiday, and not people genuinely homeless. It may just be a bit of fun for their holidays.

“If it is being carried out by people with somewhere else to live and there is large scale damage such as happened in Stowmarket recently it is very bad, very wrong and not justified at all.”

Suffolk police spokesman Lisa Crane said: “The landowner is taking action to get them removed and documents for repossession of the property have been served. Our initial reports are that six individuals are involved and we are linking this with previous squats.

“But if someone is squatting this is ultimately a civil issue and an eviction has to take place to have them removed.

“We will deal with this as much as possible and if people call us with concerns we will deal with them. But we have not had that many calls with this compared to the squat in Stowmarket town centre, this property is a little more out of the way.”

SUFFOLK County Council was left facing a bill of up to £100,000 after squatters and vandals struck at a former social services building recently.

A group of about six squatters moved into the county council-owned building in Ipswich Street, Stowmarket and the authority sought a court order to remove them and, after they left, vandals broke in and caused havoc, including ripping out light fittings.

After legal costs, repairs and making the building safe council officials estimate that the final bill will not be far short of £100,000 and it was not the only incident recently.

Mid Suffolk district councillor John Matthissen said: “There seems a rash of squatting locally at the moment.

“With the property market as it is banks are not really falling over themselves to lend to possible buyers.

“If properties stand empty for a long time and are squatted by people genuinely homeless it is hard not to have some sympathy given the shortage of affordable accommodation of any kind.

“But officers tell us it is basically youngsters, breaking out for the holiday, and not people genuinely homeless. It may just be a bit of fun for their holidays.

“If it is being carried out by people with somewhere else to live and there is large scale damage such as happened in Stowmarket recently it is very bad, very wrong and not justified at all.”

Squatting: Where property owners stand legally

- The owner of the house must go through various legal proceedings before evicting squatters.

- Squatting is regarded in law as a civil, not a criminal, matter.

- However if there is evidence of forced entry then this is regarded as trespass and the police have the powers to remove the occupants.

- If the squatter legally occupies the house, then the owner must prove in court that they have a right to live in the property and that the squatter does not, while the squatter has the opportunity to claim there is not sufficient proof or that the proper legal steps have not been taken.

- In order to occupy a house legally, a squatter must have exclusive access to that property, that is, be able to open and lock an entrance.

- The property should be secure in the same way as a normal residence, with no broken windows or locks.

- The legal process of eviction can take a month or longer, perhaps even years as the process requires a court order.

- A quicker procedure now exists which allows landlords to apply for an interim possession order, pending a judge's decision to grant a full possession order.

- In 2003, it was estimated that there were 15,000 squatters in England and Wales.

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