Friday, 14 December 2018

Pub squatters face eviction

SQUATTERS who have moved into a former pub face being evicted on the orders of a judge.

SQUATTERS who have moved into a former pub face being evicted on the orders of a judge.

Brakspear has taken legal action to repossess the former Dog and Duck in Highmoor after an unknown number of people broke in and then changed the locks and refused to leave.

The Henley pub company says that “illegal activity” is probably taking place inside the building after a syringe was found outside.

The pub, which closed more than four years ago, is due to be demolished and replaced by two houses.

Brakspear chief executive Tom Davies called squatters “a blight on society” and said the company had experienced problems with them last year at three of its pubs, one in Oxfordshire and two in London.

He said: “Quite frankly, it’s ridiculous that the law allows people to break into premises and have a standing. It mystifies me — the law’s at fault, although clearly they are too.”

Mr Davies said it was “totally wrong” that the  company had to spend money on legal action to evict the squatters.

“We have to get bailiffs appointed when they don’t leave and eventually they will be forced to leave,” he said. “By the time we get the property back it’s going to be totally trashed and you have to spend more money to restore it to make it habitable while these people get off scot-free — they go off and find the next one.

“It’s expensive and a massive irritation, although this is a slightly different case because it’s going to be knocked down.”

On Thursday last week, a judge at Reading County Court granted Brakspear an immediate order for possession.

The company, which is the freeholder, had applied for an order to return the property on the grounds of trespassing.

Victoria Claire Quinn, who represented Brakspear, said the defendants remained on the property without the company’s “licence, consent or otherwise”.

She said: “On Tuesday, March 1 the claimant became aware that the defendants had entered the property on or around that date. The claimant does not know how many persons are at the property.

“Upon attending the property, the claimant noticed a syringe on the floor outside, indicating further illegal activity and presenting a public health issue.

“The defendants have never been tenants or sub-tenants of the property. The claimant asks the court to order that the defendants give the claimant possession of the property.”

The claim was not contested but a notice has been placed in a ground floor window of the pub from “the occupiers” issuing a “legal warning”.

It reads: “Take notice: that we live in this property, it is our home and we intend to stay here. That at all times there is at least one person in this property. That entry or attempt to enter into this property without our permission is a criminal offence as any one of us who is in physical possession is opposed to entry without our permission. That if you attempt to enter by violence, or by threatening violence, we will prosecute you.

“You may receive a sentence of up to six months imprisonment and/or a fine of up to £5,000.

“If you want to get us out you will have to issue a claim in the county court or in a high court or produce to us a written statement or certificate in terms of S.12A Criminal Law Act, 1977.”

Mr Davies said he was unaware of the squat until he was informed by the Henley Standard.

He said the building was being used for storage while the company explored plans for the site. Brakspear has permission to demolish the old pub and build two houses.

The Dog and Duck, which is located on the B481, closed suddenly in December 2011.

Brakspear put the pub on the market to try to recruit another tenant but was unsuccessful.

In March 2012, the company said the pub was “unviable” and offered the freehold for £495,000 plus VAT but no buyers came forward.

Last year the company was granted planning permission to demolish the building and replace it with a five-bedroom house and convert and extend the adjacent barn into a three-bedroom house.

The Henley Standard visited the former pub this week and knocked on the door but did not get an answer.

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