Owner reveals why vulnerable people were living in ‘dangerous’ industrial units
PUBLISHED: 17:34 08 July 2019
A multi-agency operation which uncovered dangerous living conditions at an industrial estate was a “disrespectful” act of “intimidation”, according to the site’s owner.
Terence Boast says the inspection on Monday, July 1, at Boasts Industrial Park in Ellough, near Beccles, has left him feeling "completely victimised".
Officers from East Suffolk Council (ESC), fire crews and police found vulnerable people living in three units, where conditions were so unsafe their occupation presented an "imminent risk to life".
Although no criminal offences had been committed, orders to prevent occupation were served and the former residents are being supported by the council.
But Mr Boast, 76, claims he has not done anything wrong and says the "raid" was a waste of taxpayers' money.
"It was a jackboot attack on a small industrial estate," said Mr Boast. "This was once an airfield and we were made to think it was the war all over again.
"One of the people sleeping here was a lady in an old wartime flat," he explained. "Her daughter runs a business on the site so the lady approached the council and said 'please can I live there - it's amongst workshops but my daughter can keep an eye on me.' The council said it was fine and helped pay her rent.
"There's a guy who loves working in his shed and lives a fair few miles away, but because of his poor health he put a bed in to save the drive.
"Another two guys moved into their unit so I told them to go to the council, but there was nothing available so I offered one of the wartime flats. They couldn't pay me but at least it has a toilet and bath."
He added: "With all the people who are homeless, I was doing a service. Some people are sleeping in doorways, but these people had a roof over their heads, they had running water, they had a toilet. It's a lot safer here than the backstreets of Lowestoft - it's far more dangerous there.
"All the council had to do was send someone along and we'd have shown them round the site. They didn't take the right approach and we feel we were completely victimised and treated with sheer disrespect."
ESC says the inspection was an "appropriate and proportional response", providing an opportunity to properly assess the situation at the site.
A spokesman added: "The council does not send out officers to inspect each and every property when it receives a claim for housing/council tax benefit, and is therefore not aware of conditions at this stage.
"The owner let units on the site for residential purposes and charged rent for people to occupy wholly unsuitable premises."
Earlier this year, a fire at Boasts destroyed classic cars and a police command vehicle which was used following the 9/11 terrorist attack on the Twin Towers.
The council has highlighted the blaze, saying it illustrated the dangers of living on the site, but Mr Boast said he had always taken steps to keep his tenants safe.
"As a landlord, my income comes from satisfied tenants," he said. "I don't want people to be injured or in unsafe conditions.
"If someone came to me and said 'we need another fire door, we need a fire extinguisher', it would be sorted. We're here to ensure the site runs accordingly.
"People sometimes disregard certain fire regulations, but it's my job to put things right."
As the council assesses the needs of those who were living on the site, Mr Boast says the recent ordeal has reaffirmed a long-held belief.
"There's a general feeling here that this is part of something bigger," he added. "We believe this all has something to do with strategically where this site is.
"There could easily be a road coming straight through here, houses built nearby. They want us out of the way and they want to give us so much trouble that we go.
"It amounts to an ongoing vendetta and now we're just waiting for them to come back and raid again over something else."
The council spokesman added that the action was "entirely unrelated to any other issues."