Squatters occupying properties in Cardiff have joined forces to form an organised citywide network.
The new Cardiff Squatters (Network) says it plans to bring together city groups for monthly meetings, including a “skill-share” workshop on how to squat legally in commercial buildings.
It also aims to create a “support network” for people currently squatting in the city and those interested in becoming new squatters.
But the move has not been welcomed by property experts and estate agents in the capital, who expressed concern over the new network and urged property owners to be vigilant.
The move comes after a Cardiff lettings agency spent thousands of pounds last month launching legal action to remove squatters from a former city pub.
Nikki Lewis, director of operations at CPS Homes, based in Cathays, said the issue of squatters in Cardiff was a “growing concern”.
He said: “Why they feel the need to do things like this when they don’t own the property, I don’t know.
“Now they’re organising this workshop. When they have got some plan behind them, it becomes all the more worrying.”
The Cardiff Squatters (Network) website describes its first monthly meeting, to be held on Thursday, December 20, as a “skill-share” workshop for squatters and travellers.
A message, posted online under the username “gremlins”, read: “This will be an hour discussing the law around squatting, recent changes, and how to still squat legally in commercial buildings. Followed by another hour skill-sharing how to secure and occupy spaces to live in.
“We are currently organising events, planning projects, plotting against further criminalisation, setting up a squatters’ estate agents, and creating a support network for people currently squatting and for others interested in doing so.”
The launch of the network comes after activists, believed to be from a group calling themselves The Gremlins, began occupying the Bute Dock Hotel in Cardiff Bay on November 20.
The squatters left the premises days later after nearby letting agency Keylet, which owns the building, ensured a High Court order was issued immediately. Keylet staff discovered smashed windows, broken locks and graffiti on inside walls after the squatters left the building, which was being used by the company for storage.
The Gremlins also occupy the derelict Spin bowling alley on City Road, which has been daubed in messages understood to be in response to the imprisonment of London squatter Alex Haigh. Last month, he became the first person jailed for squatting in the UK.
Squatting in residential buildings was previously treated as a civil matter but the maximum penalty is now six months in jail, a £5,000 fine, or both.
Douglas Haig, of Cardiff-based estate agent Seraph Estates, advised landlords to ensure their properties were secure, saying: “I would say that for any substantially sized commercial building, you should have some sort of security in place.”
We have so far been unable to contact The Gremlins for comment.