Squatters in a Network Rail Cornerhouse site

In a site owned by Network Rail at Manchester’s Oxford Road station squatters had moved in and taken over the former cinema.

Network Rail had tried to persuade the squatters – a mix of homeless people and housing activists – to leave Cornerhouse of their own accord, before deciding to obtain a High Court writ of possession to move them using the services of the National Eviction Team, part of High Court Enforcement Group.

The Cornerhouse site

The former cinema, which was due to be redeveloped, was located at the entrance to the railway station, with a busy pedestrian area in front and five roads meeting at this point, making it a very busy and complex site.

Previous eviction attempts

County court bailiffs and other enforcement agents had tried on two previous occasions to remove the squatters but decided to withdraw when they found protesters demonstrating on the roof and leaning off it at a highly dangerous 45˚ angle.

The planning

We were aware of this and included in our operational plan climbers on the roof to secure and take control of the roof before the protesters could get up there to prevent such a recurrence.

We were on site ready to start the eviction early in the morning before the main morning commute. Greater Manchester Police and the British Transport Police were present to deal with civil matters not directly related to the eviction.

The eviction

We entered through the first floor windows and cleared the building to gain control of the site within half an hour, removing all the occupants and their belongings. The eviction passed peaceably and there were no arrests.

You can read more about the case in the Manchester Evening News report.

Preventing squatters

There was heating and water in this building and under the Human Rights Act, a landlord is not allowed to cut off services to the building if there are occupants.

Our advice to a landlord on helping prevent squatters is to cut off power and water before there is any occupation and make the property a far less appealing place to live.