Dear Mr Weatherley,
We, the occupiers of the previously unused property at 29 Western Road, would like to invite you to the social centre we have created for a cup of tea and a friendly chat. We have free hot drinks and cake for anyone who wants it, comfy seats and meeting space for groups who need it. We have established a safe space with a free shop and library, with clothes, books and DVDs for people to take or borrow. If you were to visit, I’m sure we could find you a fetching hat or perhaps a much needed book on the class divisions of our society.
For a large part of your political career, you have held the criminalization of squatting to be a cause that you passionately believe in. Parliament is currently putting through legislation that will act as the first steps towards the criminalization of squatting. This will essentially result in the criminalization of people who are homeless in the midst of a housing and financial crisis, and who must resort to occupying empty and unused buildings simply in order to have a roof over their heads. It will also criminalise people like us, who have chosen to create a free cultural and community resource in a previously unused building, showing that you and the current government prioritises the financial interests of wealthy property owners before those of the homeless and disadvantaged. Official statistics state that, outside of London, Brighton has the highest number of rough sleepers, and yet according to a BBC article published in 27th February 2011 there are 3655 empty homes in Brighton and Hove. This ridiculous situation is only going to get worse if your unjust anti-squatting legislation is passed.
Your party’s “Big Society” was an idea flawed from the outset, and as the ruthless Conservative cuts are ravaging public services, this vision has completely failed to emerge. We are a group of people attempting to create community involvement from the bottom up, in a way which counters the short sighted views of the Conservative party. We would like to invite you to visit the social centre and see the efforts we have made, so that we may prove to you that our society is bigger than yours.
We are being taken to Brighton County Court on Friday, July 29th at 12.30pm in an attempt to evict us from this property, but until then – and hopefully for a long time after – we will be open to the public Monday-Saturday, 11am-7pm. Why not pop in some time and we can discuss this matter further?
The Occupiers of the Wildkatz Social Centre
wildkatzsocialcentre AT hotmail.co.uk
[THIS IS A PISS-TAKE BY THE WAY]
The Squatters Network of Brighton [And Hove Actually]) has become increasingly concerned about the distress and misery that Government policy on squatters can cause. Law-abiding squatters who work hard for a living can spend a lot of time repairing damage to occupied buildings and clearing up the debris that unscrupulous owners have left behind.
We have met squatters and corresponded with members of the public who have expressed concern about the appalling impact Government policy on squatting has had on their properties or local neighbourhoods. We are also aware of smear campaigns in the media about noble squatters occupying residential properties in London, although we know the solution of squatting is not confined to the capital nor to affluent residential properties.
The Squatters Network of Brighton [And Hove Actually]) does accept the claim that is sometimes made that squatting is a reasonable recourse of the homeless resulting from social deprivation. There are avenues open to those who are genuinely destitute and who need shelter. When those have been explored without success, there is always the final step of occupying an empty property. No matter how compelling or difficult the owner’s own circumstances, it is wrong that legitimate occupants should be deprived of the use of a clearly unused property.
Of course, the Government must also tackle problems affecting the wider housing market and bring more empty homes back into productive use.
The Squatters Network of Brighton [And Hove Actually]) acknowledges that squatting can have a positive impact on the enforcement authorities, local authorities, homeless charities and other organisations. Any option we decide to pursue as a result of a squatting action is necessary and proportionate, based on evidence of the scale of the problem and the effectiveness of current sanctions. Squats need to be workable and affordable, taking account of the current economic climate and reduction in government expenditure. Ultimately, once our freedoms are outlawed only us outlaws are free.
There should be no doubt about the seriousness with which the Squatters Network of Brighton [And Hove Actually]) treats this issue or our determination to tackle this problem. The Advisory Service for Squatters has already published guidance for squatters under existing legislation (the excellent Squatters Handbook).
We will keep on squatting the empties.
The Squatters Network of Brighton [And Hove Actually])
With many thanks to Little Lord Crispin ‘Let’s Be’ Blunt’s Foreword to ‘Options for dealing with squatting’ A