A group of squatters has moved into derelict garages with nothing but bare mattresses and sleeping bags.
Now, residents of Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex, are worried that their area is becoming a shanty town.
Locals have complained about dozens of people gathering in the row of disused buildings, saying they are often woken in the early hours by shouting and screaming. They also fear drug-use and note that the path has become strewn with rubbish.
Some of the squatters have even brought sofas and chairs with them and suitcases have been spotted.
Southend Borough Council is investigating the so-called shanty town, after it was revealed that the suburb of Southend-on-Sea has around 23% of children living in poverty.
One resident living near the group on Ceylon Road complains: “You hear lots of noise at 3am or 4am, lots of shouting and carrying on, and there are a lot of people there late at night.
“Sometimes it can be twice a week, sometimes it’s every night, and it’s keeping my wife up at night because she’s not well.”1
Another adds: “It can’t carry on. I’m being woken up at all times of the night by people shouting and screaming. I don’t know whether they’re living there, but they’re certainly spending a lot of time there late at night and during the day. They even make fires. The sooner it’s sorted out, the better.”1
A local that lives in a flat nearby, says she’s certain people are living in the garages: “They’re fighting, shouting and screaming all the time, day and night, and has been going on for quite a long time.
“Everybody is complaining because they’re very noisy, I think they’re drinking. I think the police should check and see what’s going on.”1
One man seen in the group says the plot’s owner does not mind them using the garages.
He claims: “We just come here to socialise and the landlord who owns these garages is happy for us to be here. They’re derelict. I can’t speak for everybody here, but we’re not homeless and, as far as I know, no one sleeps here.”1
Councillor Julian Ware-Lane says he heard from residents a month ago but has not been able to determine whether anyone was living there.
He explains: “I’ve been to see it a couple of times after people complained to me that it was being used by the homeless and also by people taking drugs but I can’t substantiate that.
“I’ve been told it’s owned by people from East London and the problem is it’s very tucked away behind buildings on all sites. I’d be concerned if there are people living there, though, because I would want all rough sleepers to be housed properly. There will be no amenities there and it must get very cold in winter.”1
A Southend Borough Council spokesperson states: “We are concerned to hear of people squatting in substandard conditions. We were not aware of this issue until it was brought to our attention. We will investigate this report and work with partner agencies to respond appropriately.”1