Former Manchester United teammates Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs have reportedly given permission to around 30 homeless people to stay in a landmark building they hope to develop over the winter.
Homeless rights activists took up residence at the former Manchester Stock Exchange on Sunday – which Neville and current United assistant manager Giggs plan to turn into a plush hotel – claiming the legal right to occupy the building under squatter’s rights.
The campaigners were ordered to leave an empty office block in the city centre recently and it was expected that another court order would see the group kicked out once again.
Gary told me he’s always tried to help out homeless people in Manchester
However, Wesley Hall, of the housing activist group the Manchester Angels, claims that former United captain Neville gave the group his blessing to stay in the construction site for a “few months” during the winter.
“I was crying and shaking after I got off the phone,” Hall told the Manchester Evening News. “The graft has paid off.
“What a great guy Gary Neville is. We’ve been in negotiations with him and things are looking good. He said the main building work isn’t taking place until February, so we’ll be okay to stay until then.
“He’s having surveyors in tomorrow, with a bit of building work being done. I cheekily said to him he should have the homeless guys do it instead of labourers to give them a bit of work.
“I’m just in shock. He told me he’s always tried to help out homeless people in Manchester, but wanted to do more.”
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Hall, 33, said a local chef had already been in contact to help organise a Christmas meal. He added: “This isn’t a doss, this isn’t a squat, this isn’t a party, this is a hub where we are going to change lives.”
Neville and Giggs bought the Grade II-listed building on Norfolk Street for £1.5m and recently secured planning permission to transform it into a 35-bedroom boutique hotel replete with a basement gym, spa and rooftop private members’ terrace.