West Hampstead’s Community Minded Squatters get Evicted
Camden Council has won its case in legal proceedings against a group of activists who had taken over a former council building in West Hampstead.
The group known as The Camden Mothership had been occupying the council owned office block on West End Lane since early November.
The five story building had been left derelict for three years when the group took possession. They had planned to use the space for various community activities and the project had attracted support from locals and high profile sympathisers such as Jeremy Corbyn’s brother Piers.
Phoenix who heads the collective was disappointed at the court’s ruling to evict the group…
“It was absolutely terrible, the judge didn’t even here our case. It’s an absolute travesty of justice. We had an eight page defence and he didn’t even listen to it.
The building had been empty for three years, now it’s going to sit empty again for another year. This is a criminal waste of resources that the council is getting away with.
What we want is a common sense use of empty building resources. We want a list of buildings that are going to stand empty for at least a year and we want a list of people who need homes, space for community projects and environmental projects.
Community centres bring people together of all ages, that’s what we need. Some of these 1.5 million empty buildings should be opened up in every city to be community hubs, cultural centres, arts and music venues and theatres.
We had five different floors, we had housing campaigners, a floor for cooking food for lots of people. We had yoga groups and a cinema. We had a floor for creatives and artists. We had a multimedia centre and internet café, a recording studio. We had space for eco projects. We had space for theatre groups to rehearse. We had a library and space for dance classes.
People are crying out for these things. These buildings should get used.”
During their occupation the squatters attempted to negotiate with the council on numerous occasions in an effort to establish a cooperative community events and arts centre.
They had hoped to make use of the twenty-five thousand square foot building while it remained empty awaiting the finalisation of a controversial deal for a housing redevelopment.
Campaign groups estimated that the premises could have generated up to five-thousand pounds a week in revenue and criticised the ineffectual use of the publicly owned building while it stood empty. In response the council said it spent “less than £500 a week” on securing the site.
The bailiffs have now been and the occupants of the site, along with their possessions, have been removed. It is expected that the council’s favoured housing redeveloper A2 Dominion will now move to complete the redevelopment deal, although the property could potentially lay dormant for a further year before work begins.
In the offices place will stand one-hundred-and-sixty-four new homes 50% of which are to be affordable housing. While the redevelopment is likely to sustain controversy there is no doubt that affordable housing in the area, as in the rest of London, is in desperate need.