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Last Updated: Friday, 18 March, 2005, 06:04 GMT
Squatter turns down the rich life
By Colette Hibbert
BBC News, London

Harry Hallowes in front of his shack
Harry Hallowes says he enjoys living in natural surroundings
Most people would jump at the chance of cashing in on 2m of property in one of London's most sought after locations - but not Harry Hallowes.

Mr Hallowes, 68, could legally claim squatters' rights to a secluded spot on the edge of Hampstead Heath in north London that he has occupied for 18 years.

Local estate agents have valued the land at about 2m but he has turned down the chance of a fortune saying he values his run-down environment more.

Mr Hallowes, who came to England from Ireland 48 years ago, lives in a 12ft by 8ft shack surrounded by a 90ft by 90ft garden.

He said: "To go and claim the place as my own would seem to me to be a very mean thing to do. I do not care about the financial implications."

Before he came to England, he travelled the world, working as a government clerk, labourer and cleaner.

When you haven't any money it's better, you have the whole of nature around you as opposed to some dreadful bedsit
Harry Hallowes
His life as a squatter began when he arrived in England, finding himself living in a filthy bedsit.

Although he had various jobs working as a gardener, and labourer, he later ended up on the dole and soon started sleeping rough on Hampstead Heath.

He moved from spot to spot but when gardeners working in the grounds of Athlone House nursing home on the edge of the Heath found him sleeping there they decided to leave him.

The land is owned by property developers Dwyer International who recently bought it from Kensington and Chelsea NHS Hospital Trust.

The company intends to turn the nursing home into luxury flats.

The plot of land Harry Hallowes lives on
The plot of land Mr Hallowes lives on could be worth up to 2m
In order to claim the land lawfully, Mr Hallowes would need to go to court with two witnesses who would swear an oath that he has lived there for more than 12 years.

He said: "If they want to offer something to me I would take it but I am not chasing anything."

Next year the part of land that Mr Hallowes lives on is to be donated by Dwyer International to the Corporation of London and will become part of Hampstead Heath.

A spokesman for the corporation said: "It's against the by-laws to live on the heath but we would treat Harry's case as an exception.

"We haven't acquired the land yet so it is not something we could make a decision on at the moment."

30m houses

The plot of land is near to Bishop's Avenue, where houses can sell for up to 30m.

A spokesperson for local estate agents Taylor Gibbs in Highgate said, subject to planning permission, the plot of land could be worth up to 2m.

He said: "It is in a prime location surrounded by some of north London's most expensive roads."

Mr Hallowes only recently began receiving a weekly allowance from social services.

He often goes into nearby Highgate village, where he is well-known, to buy simple provisions.

'Surrounded by nature'

Mr Hallowes said he would like to stay in his adopted home but may be forced to move into a property provided by the local authority.

"I don't like the modern world of computers and television," he said.

"I do have a radio and I listen to the news every night, and the rugby matches, and I enjoy Wimbledon in the summer.

"When you haven't any money it's better. You have the whole of nature around you as opposed to some dreadful bedsit."

Squatter's vigil to protect pub
05 Mar 05 |  Berkshire

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