Travellers occupy land in Stevenage owned by Dragons’ Den star
- Credit: Archant
Travellers are occupying land owned by former Dragons’ Den star James Caan.
Travellers are occupying land owned by former Dragon’s Den star James Caan.
More than 15 caravans are currently parked outside an empty building in King’s Road, Stevenage, on a site owned by investment company Hamilton Bradshaw – which was founded by Mr Caan.
The building has been vacant since 2012 after the previous tenants, Fujitsu, moved to another site.
The travellers are believed to have moved onto the site in the past two weeks and Chung Hau, legal advisor for Hamilton Bradshaw, revealed the company is trying to move them off the site.
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He said: “We are taking steps to have them removed which will involve doing what we can legally. We will involve the courts but it can take a long time to resolve and can be unpredictable.”
Squatters Right, as the law is commonly known, was changed in 2012 making it illegal for people to occupy empty residential buildings, however this does not include non-residential buildings, like the former Fujitsu office.
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This leaves the police powerless to act as the matter is a civil rather than a criminal one unless Hamilton Bradshaw obtains an interim possession order (IPO) from a court which gives squatters 24 hours to leave or face breaking the law.
A spokesman for Hertfordshire Constabulary said officers are aware of the situation and are doing everything they can to remove the squatters.
He added: “We are closely monitoring the situation along with officers from Stevenage Borough Council, however no action by the police to move the travellers on can be taken until the owners of the site have asked them to leave.
“We are currently liaising with the real estate company which own the building to try to ensure this happens, but to date no request for them to leave has been given.”
Police and firefighters were called to the site yesterday (Monday) after reports of a small fire at around 6.15pm. The blaze, which a spokesman for the fire service said is believed to be “deliberate or doubtful”, was out within minutes.
Stevenage Borough Council (SBC) has raised concerns about the site’s security and had been requesting the owner to make the site secure for the past two months.
Richard Henry, executive member for safer and stronger communities for SBC, said: “We are very concerned about this however Stevenage Borough Council has no powers to remove travellers from private land.
“We are working with both the police and the landowners to offer guidance and advice. For the past two months the council has been requesting that the landowners make the site and building secure.”
Business entrepreneur Mr Caan, 53, is best known for appearing on BBC Two TV show Dragon’s Den from 2007-10.