THEY are living in a ghost town, surrounded by derelict houses, boarded-up homes and drug addicts.

And more than 30 families have just been told they will have to live on the estate for another three months before being re-homed.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is undertaking a massive redevelopment project in Carterton – home to hundreds of service personnel and their families based at RAF Brize Norton.

The project, named Programme Future Brize, involves the demolition of 600 properties to make way for about 800 new family homes.

It is part of a scheme to transfer RAF Lyneham to Brize Norton by December 2012.

Fifty-nine families living in married quarters known as Reema North, have been re-homed to other MoD-owned housing in Carterton, Faringdon and Long Hanborough.

However, 33 households remain in Upwood Drive, Tangmere Avenue, Raynham Close, Yatesbury Road, Pitreavie Avenue and Odiham Close.

They say living among abandoned houses has led to a surge in crime, with an increase in burglaries, thefts from gardens and antisocial behaviour.

However, there is no suggestion that the squatters are responsible for the crime.

One resident, who did not wish to be named, told the Oxford Mail police were called to the estate two to three times a week. She blamed the problems on the fact families were being moved at different times, which had left her with no neighbours on either side of her home.

The mother-of-one said: “It has now become a safety issue.

“We have squatters, garages being broken into and drug paraphernalia on the playing fields.

“The Government has boarded up the houses, which is like a red rag to a bull as it now looks like a derelict estate. It’s just not safe.”

Another resident, who also wished to remain anonymous, said: “We were supposed to be moving out in March.

“They should have moved everybody out of a block or a street and flattened them straight away.”

He added: “My mate moved out on a Wednesday and on Sunday morning he came back to get his mail and already the back door had been kicked in.”

A neighbour added: “I cannot step out of my house without locking it, my garden ornaments have gone missing.”

Last night, Defence Estates (DE), which are employed by the MoD as landlords of the properties, admitted families should have moved out by April.

Spokesman Tony Moran said: “We have tried to move families street-by-street. However, following consultation with residents, it became clear that some families had to move early to meet their welfare needs.

“For example, we needed to consider the requirements of pregnant wives or service personnel with impending out-of-area detachments.”

Phil Scott, chairman of Carterton’s Neighbourhood Action Group, and Adrian Coomber, who works at RAF Brize Norton and is deputy mayor of Carterton, hit out at the MoD.

Mr Scott said: “We understand there are squatters and it’s a haven for all the wrong types of thing, which happens when there is no control over it.

“It’s an eyesore on Carterton’s landscape and the whole things seems to have come to a grinding halt – we are keen to see it going again.”

He added: “I’m appalled at the lack of progress made on the housing project.

“I have contacted DE time and time again to relay the concerns of the people of Carterton with regard to the risk to public safety.”

Defence Estates responded: “The MoD is doing all it can to move families to alternative accommodation as it becomes available, but this process has been hampered by vandalism at another site in the town.

“For that reason, vacated properties at Carterton are being made secure to prevent vandalism or theft and to offer some security for remaining residents.

“MoD police, RAF police and Thames Valley Police are all aware of the challenge. They are working closely together – patrolling the area as frequently as possible.”

DE aims to move all residents by late July. Constituency MP and Prime Minister David Cameron was unavailable for comment.

Unemployed Jack Murphy, 20, has been squatting in Pitreavie Avenue for the past three weeks. It is his first squat, after he became interested in squatting when he was 16.

The former Carterton Community College pupil said he could carry on living in the house according to a piece of legislation that protects squatters’ rights.

He has displayed two notices setting out the law on the outside of the property.

Mr Murphy, who grew up in Carterton, said: “I saw that the windows were all smashed up and gained access through the top window.

“I am inspired by people squatting in Hackney, Oxford and Bristol, people have lived there for years. I wanted to follow the movement. It’s an activist thing.

“It’s to do with freedom and living for free, it’s to do with not paying taxes.”

Mr Murphy said that he had electricity and running water in his current squat, as it had not been turned off.

He added: “I want to move around and try to keep the squatters’ rights going as not a lot of people do it around this area. I want to educate people that you can do that.

“People can live for free and not have to pay taxes.

“A lot of people live stressful lives and are always worried – I am trying to educate people about how you can live.

“The money from taxes goes to the wrong people, the money that we get taxed should go to people who are homeless or the Third World.”

Section 6 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 protects squatters’ rights, meaning that they cannot be removed by threats or violence.

The legislation states if squatters are actually present in the location, it is illegal for the owners of the property to kick the squatters out. Squatters post a legal warning in the building, usually on the entrance of the building, which protects their occupancy rights.

Squatters cannot be legally evicted from premises without a court possession order, unless they leave voluntarily or the owner secures peacable re-entry. It can only be fought in the civil courts.

Under squatters’ rights, if a property has been lived in for 12 years then it effectively becomes the property of the squatters.

An MoD spokesman said: “It is our policy to deal with squatters as soon as their presence on MoD property is known, allowing them a short but reasonable time to vacate the property (usually up to seven days), before taking legal action to recover the property.

“We have recently been made aware of the presence of a small number of squatters in properties in Carterton that are awaiting demolition before redevelopment.

“We will be taking action to seek the removal of the squatters to enable new homes to be provided for personnel and their families.”