CALLS are growing for tougher police powers to deal with the problem of squatters.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson yesterday agreed to lobby the government for legislation to speed up the process of evicting squatters from empty or abandoned homes.

Last week, nine people were turfed out of derelict homes in New Southgate on the edge of the North Circular, as part of a spun-out eviction process to clear the way for redevelopment of the area.

Between 40 and 50 homes on the A406 in Enfield are believed to have been used by squatters, and Ken Barnett, project director for the redevelopment scheme, complained in December that getting eviction orders was a “painfully slow process”.

Currently, homeowners have to get an interim possession order from the court to start eviction, which can be a lengthy and expensive process.

Mr Johnson, at Mayor's Question Time, described the situation as “crazy”, and promised to lobby the government for more powers to tackle squatters.

Steve O’Connell, London assembly member for Croydon and Sutton who posed the question to Mr Johnson, said: “The police need additional powers to quickly evict squatters from an illegal occupied property without a court order.

"It is completely unfair, and the balance needs to be shifted in favour of homeowners, not squatters.”

The issue of squatters along the North Circular has been long-running and arduous for residents living legally, who have complained of people climbing into their gardens late at night, anti-social behaviour, and safety fears.

In December last year, one of the houses which is earmarked for demolition burnt down after months of use by squatters.

Notting Hill Housing Trust, which owns the houses, is currently mid-way through evicting squatters and securing the buildings which are empty.

It has been forced to bring in private security guards to patrol the area to try to prevent anyone breaking in and occupying the empty houses.