Squatter label ‘unfair’, says artist in hut ownership saga

Anna Davies at work in the studio
Anna Davies at work in the studio

An artist who was labelled as a ‘squatter’ after converting a building she did not own into a studio has hit back at her critics.

Anna Davies appeared before Adur District Council’s planning committee last week, seeking retrospective permission for an extension of hours to operate classes in the hut, in Kings Walk, Shoreham.

But objectors raised the unresolved issue of ownership –branding her as a ‘squatter’ and claiming the rightful owners were members of the former Shoreham Angling Club.

Speaking after the meeting, Ms Davies said: “I am uncomfortable with the label because I feel it is unfair. I don’t sleep or live there.

“I secured it and didn’t break in. At that time I had no idea about the owners and I thought I would call them and negotiate an agreed rent.”

Ms Davies claims she first noticed the hut in 2005, while walking her dog. It was not until 2009 that she said she began trying to trace the owners.

Public notices and a visit to West Sussex Records Office failed to solve the ownership conundrum.

She said she secured the hut in 2011 and submitted a planning application, which granted permission for use of the building as a studio.

She was later contacted by two former angling club members –one of which was Trevor Passmore, who objected to the latest application before his death in January.

Mr Passmore had said former members were keen to evict Ms Davies.

“I have spent a lot of money and nobody has every approached me with confirmation of ownership,” she said.

“I feel like I have done my best trying to find the owners. Anyone can come and talk to me. If I vacated that property anybody else could just move in. I have worked very hard to make it what it is. I am a single parent trying to survive as an artist.”

Ms Davies said she was ‘grateful’ for the position she was in. While she admitted long-term occupation could eventually enable her to claim legal ownership of the property, she said she would not be ‘cheeky’ enough to presume it would happen and welcomed contact from the true owners.