DESIGN engineer Adam Burbidge is enjoying life back at school at the age of 27 – but these days it is where he calls home rather than a place of learning.
Adam is living in a spacious classroom in the former school in Blyth, Northumberland, as part of a national scheme which provides so-called “guardian angels” for empty buildings.
He is one of three tenants who have moved into the disused St Andrew’s RC First School, and are acting as guardians of the building against potential intruders and vandals.
Several more tenants are being sought by property management company Ad Hoc to live in the school under the Guardians scheme, an idea pioneered in Holland before being imported to the UK.
It involves people paying rent to live in buildings such as schools, nursing homes, blocks of flats, churches, vicarages, pubs and hospitals, temporarily empty or waiting to be sold or redeveloped. The guardians are brought in to help protect them against vandals, arsonists, squatters and burglars, at a much smaller cost to the owners than hiring security guards.
Adam and his fellow tenants are paying £180 a month rent for their new accommodation, which closed as part of a reorganisation of Roman Catholic schools.
He has sub-divided his classroom into a living area, bedroom, study and laundry space, and has brought in furniture and personal items such as a TV and laptop.
Adam, who comes from the Cramlington area and works in North Tyneside, has previous experience as a property guardian with Ad Hoc when he was one of a number of tenants who lived temporarily in an empty vicarage in North Shields.
He said: “When we moved out of there and went our separate ways I was looking for somewhere else so I contacted Ad Hoc. They said they had just been given this empty school in Blyth to look after, which appealed to me.
“I moved in about three weeks ago and I’m over the moon with it, because it is so spacious and has plenty of room for my furniture. I am living in one of the old classrooms but it has side rooms and cupboards, and I have segregated the space into various living and sleeping areas.
“It has all the home comforts and I basically have the run of the school, including the gym, hall and kitchens, and the use of 35 toilets if I want them.
“I will be very surprised if we don’t get a few more tenants moving in here, because I can’t rate it highly enough as a place to live.”
Adam says he is not worried about his security role as a guardian of the building. “The property is surrounded by a 6ft fence and has locked gates, so it is pretty secure.
When I moved in there were a few empty beer cans lying around outside but since then there has been no noise or disturbance. People don’t see it as empty any more and there are placards in the windows to say it is occupied.
“I pay £180 a month rent which includes gas, electricity, Council Tax and water rates, which is a great deal.”
Ad Hoc is one of a number of management companies which now provide guardian services for empty property owners by securing carefully-vetted tenants such as young professionals. The company says the scheme saves property owners up to 80% on traditional security methods, by turning the empty buildings into affordable accommodation for local working people.
Anyone interested in being a tenant at the Blyth school, or finding out about other Ad Hoc-managed properties in the region, should contact Daniel Little on 01904 795657 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
I am living in one of the old classrooms but it has side rooms and cupboards