In the four and a half years since Grow Heathrow project started it has significantly grown in size and scope. The original abandoned plant nursery site where the project began is right next to another piece of derelict Green Belt land, that contains the ruins of several more glasshouse frames.
In the spirit of the original occupation, these have been gradually occupied and incorporated into Grow Heathrow, providing additional venues for activities, including the straw bale house that was built with the help of many willing volunteers and has been a prominent feature of the project since it was finished.
The occupiers of the Grow Heathrow site have been fighting a legal battle to retain the use of the land that the project is situated on, but that has so far been limited to the boundaries of the original site. The land bordering this, known in our community as the “Backlands”, is owned seperately by Lewdown Holdings Limited, a faceless company registered in Guernsey. After years of peaceful occupation, they have now decided to begin legal proceedings to remove anyone associated with Grow Heathrow from their land.
The land that includes the Backlands is a large area at the northern entrance to Sipson village that was formerly used for commercial agriculture. The derelict ruins of a large complex of pre-war glasshouses are evidence of what used to be a thriving fruit-growing business. It’s boundary includes the Sipson Garden Centre, that closed down in 2011 after a 75 per cent decline in trade over ten years, due to local residents’ unwillingness to invest in home improvements as the future of their properties remained uncertain. After three years of abandonment, the Sipson Garden Centre building is now in a very shabby state. Unopposed fly tipping at the rear of the site is further evidence of neglect.
The landowners have shown absolutely no interest in maintaining the land for agricultural use, and have had a planning application to develop the site (with housing, an industrial centre and a hotel) turned down. Undoubtedly, they have aspirations to overturn the Green Belt status of the land in order to achieve their development ambitions.
Four and a half years after Grow Heathrow was started, Lewdown Holdings Limited have decided to remove us from their land, despite it having no conceivable commercial use in the forseeable future. Should they submit a planning application for the land that is approved, we may be willing to leave peacefully if required, but while the land remains abandoned we feel there is justification for it being put to productive use.
Our court hearing is arranged for 11am on Tuesday 23rd September, at Uxbridge County Court. Please come along to court to show your support outside the courthouse. This is a brand new case, that is completely seperate to our ongoing defense of the main Grow Heathrow site.
Alternatively, come along to the Grow Heathrow site at any time during the day to catch up with what we’ve been up to lately, or to get involved in cooking some delicious food.
As always, we will try to pursue every available avenue to prolong our stay on site. Keep up to date with any upcoming news by checking our website, subscribing to our mailing list, following us on twitter, or joining our facebook group.
We have just been served a court hearing for the backlands at Grow Heathrow. Tuesday 23rd September, 11am, Uxbridge County Court.
Please come along to court to show your support, or come along to the Grow Heathrow site in the day to get involved in cooking some delicious food and all the rest…
We will try and pursue every avenue to prolong our stay on site – keep your eyes peeled for any upcoming news. More information to follow soon. PLEASE PASS IT ON.
After all these years Grow Heathrow have finally come to the end of our legal battle!!
We were not able to take the appeal to the supreme court, as the case was not awarded legal aid, by a body that is being cut heavily by this government. Read more about cuts to legal aid here: http://www.savelegalaid.co.uk/
However, the case has set a positive precedent in housing law that will be able to be used in future cases on evictions for both squatters and exploited tenants. The last appeal heard at the High Court was the first case of it’s type where article 8, the Human Rights Act, was ever deemed to be relevant. Big news in a time where squatting is being criminalized in the middle of a housing crises.
Where does that leave us?
Basically in a similar place to where we were before. Grow Heathrow is still under possible threat, much like the last 4 years, but business as usual continues. The Wind Turbine is still soaring, the Chard is still growing and the compost loo’s are still being stirred!
Mainly we are still trying to create negotiations with the land owners to ultimately and ideally secure the site. With the 3rd runway back on the cards, we are not going anywhere. Watch this space…
Update on the Court of Appeal verdict:
The judges failed to reach a unanimous decision on the case but by majority, our appeal was dismissed and permission was granted for the owners to seek a warrant for an eviction.
On the plus side, one of the judges found that squatters as well as tenants are entitled to respect for their home under article 8 of The European Convention on Human Rights and that the court should consider the individual circumstances of those affected when deciding how soon to make an eviction.
We are now working with our lawyers on a further appeal to the Supreme Court to define the arguments about whether article 8 is relavent to private land owners.
In the meantime, there is a low risk of imminent eviction and we’re asking for support on site over the next few weeks. Come along today for dinner and help us make plans for securing our future.
See here for directions to site. If you plan to stay the night, please bring a sleeping bag and tent if you can.
Grow Heathrow campaigner Joe Rake said:
“We think it’s important to challenge a law that protects the right of irresponsible landlords to trash the heart of a community. We are still following up options to appeal to the Supreme court and hope we can come to an agreement so that we can carry on working with the local resident’s association and our MP to make sure ‘Grow Heathrow’ exists as a community resource in the long-term.”
Sipson resident Tracey Howard commented:
“At a time when harsh austerity cuts are effecting people across the country, ‘Grow Heathrow’ is a great example of what can be done when a community takes back control of its land to meet its own needs.
Spread the word and thanks for your support!
We will give more updates as soon as we can tomorrow once we’ve been able to talk about it. We’ve just heard that we lost our appeal in the UK’s second-highest court so the landowner now has a live possession order.
We are continuing to try to negotiate with the landowner to buy the land, and there is no real threat until at least Monday. We expect to hear in a few weeks whether our application to appeal to the Supreme Court is granted. If we can appeal, then at that point we expect the possession order to be shelved (so no threat); if we’re not allowed to appeal, then we continue to be at risk. The first thing we will do is to talk with local residents in Sipson to organise next steps.
We don’t know the landowner’s plans, so we don’t know whether or when he will apply for a warrant from the County Court for bailiffs, and beyond then whether or when he might hire bailiffs, which could take months.
We need people here to help us plan what we can do now. There is travel info to get here. Please bring a tent, roll mat and sleeping bag. There is lots of indoor space, so you’re unlikely to need a tent, but it’s useful just in case.
If you can’t come to site, please consider donating any cash you can spare – we need money now more than ever and even £10 makes a huge difference for us. The orange ‘donate’ button is to the right.
occupy, create, resist
We’ll find out the long-awaited verdict from the Court of Appeal at 9.30am on Wednesday 3 July.
Please support us:
We’d love you to join us at the Royal Courts of Justice (courtroom 70) at 9.30 on Wed. Better yet, come show your solidarity where it’s most important – at Grow Heathrow!
Join us on site during the day and into the evening. The bike workshop will be running all afternoon, we’ll be cooking up a delicious dinner and there’ll probably be a campfire and music. You’re also welcome to stay over on Wednesday night, ready for our community workday on Thursday.
You can find directions to Grow Heathrow here. And the Royal Courts of Justice are on The Strand, WC2A 2LL.
Please spread the news far and wide, and for more info call us on 07890751568. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @transheathrow.
Love from the greenhouses xx
We have just found out that our court judgement is in a list of four or five judgements that are yet decided. Our case could result in a change of human rights case law after Grow Heathrow forced the UK’s second highest court to weigh up the principle of private property (article 1, ECHR) against the right to a home (article 8, ECHR).
Although the judgement was expected by 28 February, the latest update is that the judgement could be given any time in the next few months. It’s impossible to guess exactly when that’ll be.
In the mean time, we’re asking the landowner, Imran Malik, to come back to the table to talk about our longstanding offer to buy the land. We have been formally advised by one of the UK’s leading experts in community land trusts (CLTs) on finalising the specific legal structures, processes and documents for the land to be owned by the local community. As a community land trust, it can continue to thrive and be used for the good of Sipson and the Heathrow villages, and this be secured for the long term.
Imran Malik’s legal team insisted in the Royal Courts of Justice on 15 January: “If the landowner wants to leave the land vacant, they’re entitled to.”
Threats of eviction come amid a desperate government crackdown on squatting. 24 MPs signed a parliamentary petition in January that would criminalise Grow Heathrow. It threatens to criminalise all homeless people who are forced to live in empty abandoned commercial buildings amid housing and economic crises, by making it illegal to squat commercial buildings. Recent research found that 40% of all single homeless people have depended on squatting to have a roof over their head.
Our friends are the best people in the world. Thanks for sharing bike-powered banana smoothies with us outside the UK’s second-highest court today, showing your support, and a big thanks to all of the people who couldn’t make it but had their fingers crossed for us.
Check out our twitter @transheathrow for the live-tweeting from Court.
And come to visit – wild food workshops making chickweed salads on Mondays, arty crafternoons making papier mache strawberries and swirly wirly signs on Tuesdays, and bike workshops on Thursdays, to make your steel steed the fastest on the street. All for free!
See you at ours! (or is it yours?)
We have just received news that our latest court case, scheduled for next Tuesday October 23rd in the Court of Appeal has been adjourned.
Our solicitors have argued that valuable time for preparing the case was taken up by discussion of the complexities around where funding would come from, and so an extension has been granted to bring the case together. We should be given a new date soon which could be anytime from November 19th. This must mean it’s time to get planting some winter veg.