THE situation with ‘beds in sheds’ in Southall is getting worse according to a longtime resident, as the BBC claims the area is one of the worst in the capital for illegal outhouses.
Pensioner Tony Whittle, who has lived in the area for decades, said the region is facing an epidemic of what he calls ‘Trojan houses’ - outhouses which people use to live in without planning permission.
A report by the BBC went out on Monday night claiming that there are an estimated 10,000 illegal outhouses across London, with Ealing having one of the biggest concentrations, though it was not made clear where these figures have come from.
Mr Whittle said: “You can see the situation getting worse. I have lived in Southall a long time and people have had more and more problems with these kinds of houses. I call them Trojan houses, as just with the Trojan horse, you have no idea what might be inside.”
Mr Whittle, who said he has had problems with illegal dwellers near his property in the past, said the problem cannot be tackled overnight by the council and that a gradual approach is needed.
He said: “These are houses where there as many as four or five people living inside, many of them children. You can’t just go breaking down doors and carting people off, someone can get hurt. What the council do is tackle the problem in bite-sized bits.”
A spokeswoman for Ealing Council said the authority was currently carrying out 496 planning enforcement investigations into outhouses and 189 have been carried out by regulatory services.
There were also 115 building control inspections on detached out buildings and 10 contravention notices served.
From April to December last year, the planning team had concluded 252 investigations and issued 73 enforcement notices. A rogue landlord in Southall was also successfully prosecuted.
Julian Bell, leader of Ealing Council said: “I’m not sure exactly how the BBC got that figure but there is definitely a problem in Southall, and that’s why we have been working on this problem year after year.
“We have some resources and we are trying to tackle it but unless there’s a change in the law then we’ll be spinning our wheels to some degree.”
Virendra Sharma, MP for Ealing Southall condemned reports in the media which criminalised an entire community: “The majority of people in Southall are decent and law-abiding. These outhouses are the work of a minority of greedy, ruthless people exploiting the hardship and misery of others.”
Mr Sharma added he wanted to organise meetings between the local authorities and the Indian High Commission to tackle the problem as well as requesting a debate in Parliament to give local councils more power to deal with rogue landlords.