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Page last updated at 15:21 GMT, Tuesday, 23 March 2010
Immigrants are living in my shed

Immigrants' home in a garden shed in Peterborough
Sheds and houses have been taken over by homeless migrant workers

Homeless immigrants are taking refuge in garden sheds and coal bunkers in a Peterborough street.

Residents of Lincoln Road are unable to remove the squatters as trespass is not, in itself, a criminal offence.

Inspector Mat Newman said: "Trespass is a civil matter unless substantive criminal offences have occurred there, such as criminal damage."

He added that the police were working with organisations to offer squatters "alternative lifestyle choices".

Ian Treasure, who has a Czechoslovakian man living in his shed, showed our photographer around his own garden in Lincoln Road, Peterborough, as well as those of neighbours living a few doors down, whose outbuildings are also occupied.

Ian Treasure
Ian Treasure has a man living in his shed and is at the end of his tether.

He said: "I looked out the window and saw a mattress down there in my coal shed, so I went to investigate in the middle of the night and I found this chap living in there.

"Obviously I made my displeasure known, and he moved out to begin with, but then he just kept creeping back every few weeks.

"This area has gone through significant changes and now there are lots of homeless people and drunks and the area's just overwhelmed," he continued.

"It's a situation where I kick one out and I get another one in.

"I do feel it's devaluing my house, and from the point of Lincoln Road, it's a grand old road with a grand old history and I just believe it's totally unacceptable the way it is at the moment.

"I've been on to the council half-a-dozen times and they come round, take photographs, and nothing happens about it. I'm at the end of my tether, really."

Mr Treasure also claimed to have seen discarded syringes in the area, and said that the man using his shed had urinated against the garden wall in front of him.

Squatters have also taken up residence in a boarded-up house in Lincoln Road.

Police intervention

The law on trespass is commonly misunderstood.

As a civil matter, the police will only become involved in certain cases.

The Crown Prosecution Service states that a police officer can 'direct trespassers on land (who are there with the common purpose of residing there for any period) to leave the land where the occupier has taken steps to ask them to do so, and either:

• they have damaged the land;
• or they have used threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour to the occupier, her or his family, employees or agents;
• or between them they have 6 or more vehicles on the land.

However, as the law stands, if, as a land owner, you forcibly eject an individual or an individual's possessions, or both, you are leaving yourself liable for criminal proceedings for undue force and damage.

'Alternative lifestyle choices'

In a statement to BBC Cambridgeshire, Inspector Mat Newman from Cambridgeshire Constabulary said: "We are aware that there are many properties where residents have discovered people living in their outhouses.

Immigrants' home in a garden shed in Peterborough
Inside one of the garden sheds on Lincoln Road in Peterborough

"We are working with Peterborough City Council, their homeless team and other agencies to address many of the issues and offer those people alternative lifestyle choices.

"We have a responsibility to help people, even if that means putting them in touch with other organisations or working with others to help solve an issue for all."

Peterborough City Council told BBC Cambridgeshire that as the squatters had moved on to private land, there was not much they could do, and would advise the residents to get themselves a solicitor in order to take civil action.

A spokesperson for the council added: "We are aware of a number of people who are sleeping in these gardens.

"Two are accessing accommodation later this week and we will be working with the others to help them access the services which are available to them."

Peterborough city councillor, Charles Swift, told BBC Radio Cambridgeshire: "We are more than seriously concerned at the vast number of people that there are, not only in these houses but in people's garages, living in their back gardens, and when the weather gets a little bit better they'll be sleeping under the hedgerows all over the place."

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