Squatters occupying the likely site of Heathrow’s proposed third runway were yesterday given a six-week stay of eviction to appeal under article eight of the Human Rights Act, the right to home and family life.
The site is privately owned and this will be the first time that a higher court has been asked to determine whether article eight applies to private landlords in the same way that it does to public bodies.
If the Court of Appeal decides that the squatters do have rights under article eight, private landlords will in future find it harder to remove a tenant, particularly if the tenant is pregnant or has a young child, a disability or other compelling reason to remain in the property.
The Heathrow squatters have for more than two years occupied a site they call Grow Heathrow, transforming it from a derelict rubbish dump to a place where they can live and grow produce.
However, the owner of the site, Imran Malik, has successfully applied to Central London County Court to have the land returned to him.
Judge Karen Walden-Smith, while accepting Malik’s claim for possession, said yesterday that she was taking the ‘unusual step’ of granting an appeal against her own order evicting the squatters so that the higher courts could determine whether article eight applies to the private sector as well as to public bodies.
She said: ‘The supreme court has so far shied away from reaching a determination as to whether article eight applies to private as well as public landlords.
‘In my judgment… [since] the land is being occupied as a home, article eight is capable of application even though the landowner is a private individual and the occupiers are trespassers.’
If the Court of Appeal backs Walden-Smith’s decision, private landlords will have to take tenants’ human rights into consideration before asking them to leave.
Grow Heathrow resident May Mackenzie said: ‘We are delighted by this opportunity to challenge laws which allow landlords to leave land empty and abused.’
A spokesman for Malik said that he was disappointed that leave to appeal has been granted. The squatters have six weeks in which to bring their appeal.