Squatters' rights battle: ‘Hermit' faces eviction from King's Cross wasteland

Council wants to start work on site

Tuesday, 7th June — By Dan Carrier

camden Image 2022-06-07 at 8.57.11 AM (9)

Leo Fieran says he has lived next to the tracks for 16 years unbothered by anybody

A HIGH Court judge has paved the way for the eviction of a modern-day hermit who hoped to claim squatters’ rights over a small patch of wasteland. L

eo Fieran, 54, claims he has lived for 16 years in a makeshift home squeezed next to railway tracks on the Camley Street industrial estate – and should be given ownership so he can stay permanently.

His case has won support from neighbours, businesses and church leaders, but the court ruled last week that Mr Fieran had failed to prove his right to be there

. The Town Hall, which owns the land in King’s Cross, can now evict him and has been told he has no grounds to appeal.

Mr Fieran had been in the midst of creating a self-build, Grand Designs-style scheme using reclaimed bricks, windows, pipes and other materials, on what was an overground patch full of rubbish.

He has planted an orchard and garden, but his hopes of completing the project are now in doubt.

“I have lived here for 16 years and no one has ever shown any interest in me or this place whatsoever. I have proved this is my home, and the land has no value to them,” he said

The engineer and builder said he first came across the triangular patch in 2004 having moved from Romania to take up a job.

He said: “I wanted to come to live and earn a living, [and] see London.”

A mechanical engineering graduate, he found work, but says housing was harder to come by.

“I was exploring King’s Cross and I came across this piece of wasteland,” he said. “No one had been here for years, except to dump things or take drugs. I was working but I needed somewhere to sleep, so I quietly moved in. I didn’t advertise my presence.”

It is found behind a large fence with a padlocked gate acting as his front door.

Underneath a walkway, he has built a sleeping area. His talent for building includes making an earth-sifting contraption, which removes debris from soil.

He has become well known in the neighbourhood, completing jobs like repairing walls, laying paving and removing debris. Workers in neighbouring garages speak highly of his work and say they can vouch that he has been a long-term resident.

Mr Fieran says the land he has occupied for 16 years is of doubtful provenance.

Regeneration chief Danny Beales

Last year, Mr Fieran applied to the Land Registry to take possession, but was told his bid to be recognised as the legal owner had been cancelled as his application was “substantially defective”, and was asked for more evidence of having occupied the land for over 10 years.

Mr Fieran then saw his case considered at the High Court, where judges ruled against him.

He said: “The freeholder appears to be Network Rail, with Camden having a lease on it. Network Rail have no interest in it, and do not care that I have been living here. I claimed the land last July – and only then I was visited by a council officer, for the first time, who asked what I intended to do.” The Town Hall said they had sought to help re-house Mr Fieran and the land was not fit for habitation.

Regeneration chief, Labour councillor Danny Beales, added: “The location where Mr Fieran is currently sleeping is not a safe environment and lacks basic facilities for his wellbeing. He has received several visits from the council’s Routes off the Street team, but has declined the support offered.”

Cllr Beales added: “He is part of the community, and over several months the council have sought to support him with his housing options.

“We also need to provide more affordable housing to address our wider housing needs, and notably the Camley Street project is one of the ways we can bring forward much-needed council homes.

“Plans for development are moving forward, and although the physical construction has yet to begin, the legal processes associated with this must happen now. Without this, the council’s ability to provide affordable housing is put at risk.”

 

 

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