RESIDENTS living above an empty bank building in Westbourne have suffered nearly two weeks of sleepless nights after squatters moved in.

The group have been living in the vacant NatWest branch in Poole Road since last week, and have been disturbing residents in the flats above with loud music in the middle of the night.

Madonna Viviani, who has lived in the building for 10 years, said she was woken up at 2am on Thursday with her “floor shaking”.

BCP Council served the squatters with a noise abatement notice later that day, which threatens them with a fine if they continue to make a noise.

NatWest is also obtaining a court order to remove the squatters, and the claim will be heard in court on Wednesday. A NatWest spokesperson refused to comment on the matter when approached by the Daily Echo.

Meanwhile, the squatters have put up their own legal warning on the building’s window which states the property is “our home and we intend to stay here”.

While squatting in residential buildings is illegal, squatting in a non-residential building is not strictly a crime unless the occupiers do not leave when they are told to by a court, or if they damage the building.

Matthew King, community enforcement and anti-social behaviour manager at BCP Council, said: “Following recent complaints of loud music from the property, the council’s community enforcement team have served a noise abatement notice on the occupants. If this is breached, it may result in either prosecution of those responsible, or seizure of noise equipment. Meanwhile, we are in communication with the owners of the property and being kept up to date on their own civil action.”

Madonna said she first became aware of the squatters when she heard “drilling and banging during the night”.

“They were changing the locks downstairs. The music started a couple of days after that.

“Being woken up in the night 10 days in the row is pretty awful, especially when you have work.

“I don’t think they’re homeless as they have a van and a car parked at the back, and hippie symbols have been sprayed on the window.

“There’s people coming and going all the time, I don’t know how many are down there.

“We were woken up at 2am on Thursday morning, and the music went on until 3.30am. It was so loud our floor was shaking. We were banging on the windows, and eventually it stopped.

“We’ve been calling the police every day since the squatters moved in but they can’t do anything about it as it’s a civil matter.”

Another resident of the building, who wished to remain anonymous, said he had also been kept awake by the noise.

“There’s been really loud thumping music in the afternoons and at night. Wednesday night was the worst so far. The room was shaking because of the deep bass – it vibrated through the whole building. I called the police but was told it wasn’t a police issue. I complained to the council about the noise, and there’s now a notice on the door,” he said.

NatWest closed the branch in October 2017, and the premises have remained empty ever since.

A Dorset Police spokesperson said officers visited the property after calls from residents but “there have been no criminal offences identified at this stage”.

“We received a report at around 2.20am on Thursday of noise nuisance involving a disused premises in Poole Road in Westbourne. We understand that the council are dealing with this matter.

“Officers have previously attended the address after concerns were raised by residents in relation to people entering the building. It was established that there were a number of people squatting in the premises and the building’s owner was made aware as this would be a civil matter for them to resolve.

“Local officers have been made aware of the issue and patrols have been increased in the area.”