A prohibition notice has been issued after people were found sleeping at an empty former Debenhams turned shopping mall.

Aklu Plaza, which replaced Debenhams in Market Place, Romford, in 2022, has been empty after most of its retailers stopped trading since December 31 last year.

But the site was cordoned off yesterday (March 9) to restrict access after the London Fire Brigade found “inappropriate sleeping” at the site.

A notice has been issued as the team found that there was a risk so serious that “the use of the premises ought to be prohibited”.

According to the notice, there were signs that people were sleeping in the building despite it being shut off.

Romford Recorder: The empty site in January this yearThe empty site in January this year (Image: George Hayes)

The fire risk is amplified as the means of escape is “inadequate” at its current state, with fire protection “insufficient” and escape routes are blocked and obstructed by combustible materials.

The London Fire Brigade wrote: “The whole of the premises must not be used as sleeping accommodation until the matters identified above as giving rise to serious risk have been remedied.

“The whole of the premises must not be used until the matters identified above as giving rise to serious risk have been remedied.”

Risk of serious personal injury is imminent, the commissioner warned.

Aklu Plaza’s founder Aklu Miah signed over the lease for the former Debenhams to a second party.

Romford Recorder: The former DebenhamsThe former Debenhams (Image: George Hayes)

Businesses have been shutting since December and just two remained open when the Recorder visited the place on January 18.

It opened in 2022 following the closure of high street department store Debenhams.

When asked why Aklu Plaza struggled to survive, Mr Miah felt that the issue was not with shops inside the shopping mall, but Romford's parking.

He said: "The problem was the parking issue - there was no space for people to park and shop there."

Mr Miah believed people were put off by having to walk their shopping from the complex to multi-storey car parks.

The London Fire Brigade and Metropolitan Police were approached for further comment.