The Mereway Centre, in Mereway Road, closed in 2007 and has since been described as “overgrown, dilapidated and run down”, with the council having reported “significant” levels of asbestos at the site.
The Council has been working with a housing association to develop plans to provide affordable housing to put the site to an alternative social housing use in order to provide affordable low-cost homes for local people.
It is hoped that the site could provide around 20 homes, suitable for social rent and low-cost homeownership for local individuals and their families.
Cllr Liz Jaeger, Vice Chair of the Social Care, Health and Housing Committee for Richmond Council, said:
“I am very disappointed that these individuals have broken into the site and justified their actions by claiming we will sell the site for “luxury homes”. This could not be further from the truth and flies in the face of our absolute commitment to increase the affordable homes built in the borough to help meet the urgent demand for such housing.
“This building has been abandoned for 13 years. The site is dilapidated, run down and overgrown. It is an eyesore. We believe that it is high time something was done which gave this area a positive social purpose again.
“There are a huge number of challenges when it comes to delivering affordable housing in this borough. It is these smaller spaces that can help deliver more affordable homes for our residents who urgently need them. Otherwise we won’t be able to meet the housing needs for our local people – for our children and grandchildren.
“It is unacceptable that these squatters have illegally broken into this site and are spreading untruths about our plans. We will do everything in our power to move forward with our plans to provide these vital low-cost homes.”
It is hoped that a Planning Application on the proposals for the site will be submitted later this year and subject to full public consultation.