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Norwich family forced to squat in pub

PUBLISHED: 15:23 05 February 2011 | UPDATED: 18:21 05 February 2011

Maid Marian pub, Ipswich Road, Norwich. Someone is squatting inside the pub.

Maid Marian pub, Ipswich Road, Norwich. Someone is squatting inside the pub.

Archant © 2011

Locals at a Norwich pub have been left unable to drink there after its landlords locked themselves inside and declared squatting rights amid a row with the owners over rent.

Andy and Lynne Southworth have locked the doors, drawn the curtains and put up squatting notices in a desperate bid to keep hold of the Maid Marian, in Ipswich Road. The couple, who have been living inside the pub with their two children for the past month, are believed to have taken the drastic action in response to the owners increasing their costs.

Such is their determination to stay inside that they have repeatedly refused to open their doors to an Evening News reporter when visited on several occasions.

Today, pub owners Enterprise Inns said they were exhausting every avenue to try to regain the property and have vowed to have new owners inside as soon as they can.

A spokesman said: “We are making every effort to regain possession of the pub and intend to reopen it as soon as possible.”

The row began at the start of January when the couple placed notices downloaded from the Advisory Service for Squatters website on the doors of the pub.

The posters declare the family’s right to live there and state that if the owners want to remove them “they must issue a claim in the County Court or the High Court, or produce a written statement or certificate in terms of S.12A Criminal Law Act, 1977 (as inserted by Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, 1994)”.

Police are unable to intervene in a squatting case unless there is evidence of forced entry, a breach of the peace, or the owner of the building asks for police assistance when evicting squatters from the property.

Keith Driver, councillor for Lakenham, said he had become involved in the row and had visited the couple. He said they were on the Norwich City Council housing list and were awaiting a property.

He added: “They said the reason they closed was because the rent just kept going up and up, so I said I would go to the City Hall to see how far along they were with their housing application. They should be allocated the emergency band from the City Hall where they will be able to go for housing options.”

Mr and Mrs Southworth initially became managers of the pub in 2009 and vowed to transform it into a family-friendly place where the food, not the music, would be the main attraction. They became landlords last year.

Enterprise Inns are currently advertising on the firm’s website for a new leaseholder or tenant to take over the running of the pub.

Victoria MacDonald, Lakenham councillor, said: “I am very surprised to hear that the Maid Marian is closed and somebody is squatting in there. If any resident has any particular concerns then they should get in touch with a councillor.

“I used to be a pub landlady myself and I know the industry well. The fact that the pub companies are very uncompromising when it comes to rents makes it hard for landlords in this economic climate.”

Are you a regular at the pub? Contact Ben Woods on 01603 772439, or email ben.woods@archant.co.uk

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