YORK Central MP Rachael Maskell has told of her shock at the eviction of squatters from the Barbican site - and said the council and Government can 'no longer afford to ignore the escalating housing crisis in the city.'

The Labour MP, who visited protesters at the site this afternoon, said: "Like many across York, this morning I have been shocked by the eviction of five people peacefully protesting at the Barbican site in the city centre.

"The site has been left dormant for 15 years, and has been an eye-sore in the centre of York, when it should be used to develop crucial housing for local people."

She claimed the land was being used to drive up profits through a process called ‘land banking,’ under which developers sat on valuable land pushing up its value.

"It should be the responsibility of Government to stop this practice, and Local Government to build the homes York needs," she said.

"In speaking to the protesters this morning, I know that their aims chime with many across the city who are struggling to find decent accommodation for them and their families.

“City of York Council and the Government can no longer afford to ignore the escalating housing crisis in the city, and must get an urgent grip of their failure to use public land for public housing.

"In York, hundreds of people are inadequately housed, homeless and sleeping in temporary or unsuitable accommodation because of the shortage of good quality council houses in the city. I highlighted this in the Planning debate in Parliament on Monday and raised it further in a debate just yesterday.

“In response to this failure, people are rising up and taking action. I have always supported people using their power to bring about change; women wouldn’t have got the vote, trade unions wouldn’t have won crucial rights for working people and our fragile planet would not be protected, if community activists did not do all they could to make the case for change.

"For this reason I have been fighting the current Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill in Parliament, which is due to criminalise people for protesting."