good for bristol

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Quarry Eviction 26th August 2014

For the last few months I and three other people have been living in the old shooting range quarry in Leigh Woods on the outskirts of Bristol. Last Tuesday we were evicted with no notice by a convoy of police and bailiffs.

I'd been living in a bender in the quarry since January this year. One other person has lived on site in the shed since about October 2013. A couple of other people joined us more recently. It's a good place to live, what with wildlife, cliffs, the huge tidal river. At times it's hard going - especially during the winter storms - but that all adds drama.

Not one person, from the National Trust that own much of Leigh Woods to the joggers, cyclists, walkers, graffiti crews, cliff climbers and a woodland co-op have expressed any unhappiness with us living there.

A representative from Natural England turned up at the start of summer and we discussed the wildlife on the site, particularly the orchids growing in the calciferous grassland at the rear of the quarry. While one of our benders impinged on part of the grassland we offered to help clean up the rest of the site to provide more space. I'd recently started removing some of the chewed-up old tyres polluting much of the site and we'd also removed a few non-native Holm Oak. The Natural England guy wasn't pleased to see us on site but I felt we could establish a relationship and they'd gain a free and willing work force.

Homeless people have lived in the quarry from time-to-time since it closed as a police firing range in the early 1990s. For a couple of years (probably 2010-12) a guy called Mark had an enormous teepee half-way up the back of the quarry - it could be seen from the Portway on the other side of the river. Other people I know have lived there at times. Not once has there been any contact with the owners.

Just after midday on Tuesday, 26th August 2014 I and another resident were cycling along the river path heading towards Bristol, leaving the quarry unoccupied. We were passed on the path by a convoy of two police cars and two bailiff cars. We turned around and followed them back to the quarry.

The bailiffs said they were carrying out a "common law" eviction on behalf of English Heritage. We informed them English Heritage had no title or connection to the land and could not carry out an eviction. We also told them the lock they were about to cut belonged to me. None of this made any difference.

The bailiffs proceeded to evict the site, smashing open the concrete shed being used as one person's home, and knocking over our benders. Pretty soon our nice tidy site looked a complete mess. Friends came with a van to help us get our belongings out.

We're now looking for help with fighting the eviction legally. There are several legal points to explore:

  • How can English Heritage evict from a site they have no title to?
  • Does the presence of a locked building on site prevent a 'common law' eviction?
  • Could the bailiffs legally damage my lock to gain access?

Meanwhile, I'm back squatting and the rest of us are sofa-surfing or otherwise taken care of.

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