Jeremy Corbyn's brother Piers says Camden would be 'stupid' to evict squatters from council offices | Camden New Journal #onn #olsx #housingcrisis #reclaimlondon #homes4all #protest #action #housing #camden
PIERS Corbyn – brother of Labour Party leader Jeremy – has urged the Town Hall not to evict a group of squatters occupying a disused council office block in West Hampstead.
The group at 156 West End Lane received a notice to quit letter from the council yesterday (Wednesday) but Mr Corbyn, who is one of their negotiators, has said the council would be “stupid” to evict them.
After lying empty for more than two years, the rooms inside the building – some beginning to rot and filled with abandoned desks and telephones – are now being used as bedrooms, communal spaces and even a cycle repair shop.
As well as a “non-statutory” housing advice service, the group plans to use the building to hold seminars and lectures. An “imaginarium” is being built on the third floor and will contain a multimedia centre and recording studio.
The squatters have reached out to local politicians with proposals to set up a co-operative and apply for a lease to stay in the building while its future redevelopment plans are resolved.
One of the group, Phoenix, an environmental and community networker, said: “We want to work together in a time of austerity. We know the council is having a hard time with big cuts from a Conservative government, but we would like to see co-operation.”
Piers Corbyn, owner of forecasting business WeatherAction who was a London squatters’ rights leader in the 1970s, said: “I’m supporting this occupation because I, like many people all over the country, want these sort of buildings currently left empty brought into use. Camden can do it, they have a history of co-operation, mostly under pressure, but they are more imaginative than other boroughs. I think they would be stupid not to.”
But finance chief Councillor Theo Blackwell has turned down an invitation to meet the occupants, calling the group “freeloaders” and said that evicting them would cost taxpayers money. He said the building is “on the cusp of being sold” and will be redeveloped with 50 per cent “affordable” homes and flexible employment space subject to a decision by the planning committee.
“As can happen with a programme this big, on this site the sale didn’t go as planned due to the first buyer pulling out and a long public consultation with the new one,” he said,
Cllr Blackwell said that with the group occupying the building illegally the chances of working with them are “zilch”.
He added: “All the questions raised by the squatters seeking moral justification for illegally occupying the place could have been answered well before they took control of the building. The problem is that they weren’t interested in asking.”
But James Earl, chairman of the West Hampstead Neighbourhood Development Forum, said the group had repeatedly suggested community uses for 156 West End Lane but had been “stonewalled” by the Town Hall.
Green councillor Sian Berry said: “I think any legal action is premature and the council should talk to the people inside, who are prepared to leave voluntarily if they can hand the building over to the community rather than just be shut up again.”
The Save West Hampstead “Stop the Blocks” Campaign, a group opposing the council’s proposals for the regeneration of the site, have backed the squatters and said leaving the building empty is “hideously wasteful”.