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Squatters occupy Grade II-listed council building to 'bring it back into public use'

PUBLISHED: 16:59 07 June 2019 | UPDATED: 18:01 07 June 2019

The John Passmore Edwards Building on Plashet Grove was built as a public library in the ninteenth century. Now left vacant by Newham Council after being used as a registry office, its been occupied by squatters. Picture: Luke Acton.

The John Passmore Edwards Building on Plashet Grove was built as a public library in the ninteenth century. Now left vacant by Newham Council after being used as a registry office, its been occupied by squatters. Picture: Luke Acton.

Luke Acton

A group of around 20 squatters have occupied a Grade II-listed building in East Ham that has been left empty by Newham Council.

A chain put on the main gate to the building by the group and a make-shift barricade at the doors. Picture: Luke Acton.A chain put on the main gate to the building by the group and a make-shift barricade at the doors. Picture: Luke Acton.

A flyer posted on the columns of the Passmore Edwards Library on Plashet Grove said they are promoting the idea of squatting as a way to use empty buildings to house people and for the community.

The building was originally used as a library but before it closed was a registry office.

In the same statement, the group, who describe themselves as 'a diverse groups of artists, students and workers from many areas of the globe', said they want to have a good relationship with their neighbours.

The squatters wouldn't say how they got into the building, citing security issues.

The flyer posted on the front of the library. Picture: Luke Acton.The flyer posted on the front of the library. Picture: Luke Acton.

Squatting in non-residential buildings is not illegal in the UK. Landlords have to take squatters to court before they can evict them.

Jan, an artist, is 24 and a member of the group. He declined to give his second name.

"I think how people see squatting and how it actually is, is a bit different," he said.

"It can be a solution to the housing crisis in London. For many people, it is."

Jan, 24, refused to give a second name. Picture: Luke Acton.Jan, 24, refused to give a second name. Picture: Luke Acton.

"I think there's a point to living off the excess that London produces, because there's so much."

In the same effort to use waste, many people in the group also 'dumpster-dive' and use food-sharing apps like Olio.

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Jan said the group pays the bills for the building and have electricity and running water. It is the nicest building he's stayed in since he started squatting five years ago.

A board promoting squatting in one of the library's front rooms. Picture: Luke Acton.A board promoting squatting in one of the library's front rooms. Picture: Luke Acton.

He added that, if the council wants to use the building, it can and they would leave.

The council has been told by the squatters they are there, and the group says council officers have been inside to see how the building is being treated.

Residents are wary of their new neighbours, but can see their perspective.

One, who said he used the library when he was a child, said: "If it's empty, if there's someone living in there, I've got no issues.

A space used to hold performances by the group. Picture: Luke Acton.A space used to hold performances by the group. Picture: Luke Acton.

"If the council was using it for something, that would be totally different.

"It's a beautiful building. In Newham, how many building of this stature have we got? Not many."

He added that he wants them to turn it into a library so children can use it when they come to the park.

A council spokeswoman said: "Newham Council is aware some people have moved into the former registry office building on Plashet Grove without permission.

A drum kit used by a squatter. Picture: Luke Acton.A drum kit used by a squatter. Picture: Luke Acton.

"The building, which is grade II listed, became vacant in April 2018 when the registry office was moved to East Ham Town Hall.

"We are currently in talks with the people who are squatting the building to encourage them to leave voluntarily.

"We would always rather talk to people than take legal action, but we are determined to return this listed building to community use, and will take whatever steps are necessary to secure possession back to the council."

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