Page last updated at 11:24 GMT, Saturday, 14 March 2009

Fifty squatters take over mansion

Squatters in Bristol mansion
Work had been due to create eight flats worth 500,000 each

A group of about 50 squatters have moved into a multi-million pound mansion in Bristol and claim they are "looking after" the empty property.

The squatters, including children, took over the Grade II listed building six days ago after climbing through a window which had been left open.

The former maternity hospital, in Clifton, was bought in 2008 by property developer Jason Birakos for 3m.

Mr Birakos is now seeking a court order to remove the squatters.

Workers had been due to start converting the building into eight two-bedroomed apartments with a value of about 500,000 each.

Professional squatter

Mr Birakos is also planning to build three houses, worth 1m each, on the site at the corner of Mortimer Road and Clifton Down Road.

One of the squatters, Miriam Green, said: "We live in a damp country and a lot of properties, especially really old beautiful stone buildings like this - when they're left like this with nobody living in them - become damp.

Squatters left a note on the door
The squatters left a note on the door

"Living in it keeps it warm - we are actually looking after the place - it's like having your own live-in security."

Jake Eisenstein, 27, who described himself as a "professional squatter" said: "We got in through an open window, there was no forced entry.

"We are against corporate expansion in our communities and the privatisation of social space. We believe in taking it back with our own hands."

Jason Birakos, who owns the building, said: "I feel extremely annoyed and frustrated at the legislation in place, which prevents us from protecting our own property.

"Given that we are property developers and have had to go through the proper legislative channels - it has been extremely expensive and very arduous."

Squatting is legal if entry to an empty property has not been by force and no criminal damage has been committed.

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