Earlier this year, Manchester legends Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs received permission to turn the former Stock Exchange building in Manchester city centre into a luxury hotel.

Former Manchester United player Gary Neville

Former Manchester United player Gary Neville

They had bought the Grade II-listed building for £1.5m, and will fund the project to transform it into a 35-bedroom hotel with a gym, spa, roof terrace and ground-floor restaurant, according to architects AEW.

However, it was discovered over the weekend that a group of about 30 homeless people had got inside the building and had set up camp. The squatters admitted that they were expecting the owners to evict them from the property, but Neville surprised them with some kindness.

Human rights activist Wesley Hall said that while speaking to one of the site's developers on Friday, he was given the phone to speak directly to Gary Neville.

"He spoke to me he said, 'Look, I've not got a problem with you staying here, look after the building and respect the actual building'," said Mr Hall.

Neville has agreed to let the squatters stay until building work starts in February, giving them shelter for the winter. Mr Hall emphasised that this was a "lifeline" for the homeless, and praised Neville's compassion.

He said that a local chef had even been in contact to help organise a Christmas meal.

"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," said Mr Hall.

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