We're grassroots Heathrow residents proving that communities less dependent on oil can be more resilient, stronger and happier. We take direct action on climate change and shrinking supplies of cheap energy by transitioning to a post-oil, community-led future for the Heathrow villages.

We fought the Law!

Posted: January 10th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: legal | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

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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…


Did someone say Barton Moss? Not for shale…

Posted: November 18th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Action | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

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A lot changes in a few decades. I wonder what those 60s activists saving the whale would think of us now, as thousands of people across the UK sign up for text alerts so that they can pitch up a tent near Manchester to stop fracking. They’ll have to accept that activism’s moved on. Marine mammals have got to try a bit harder or they’ll be forgotten to the 21st century’s totally new narrative. It’s 2013. We’ve got to save the shale.

Welcome to the Northern Gas Gala.

24 hours after first major activity begins at IGas’ Barton Moss site, people will be converging for The Northern Gas Gala. All are warmly invited to join residents in a show of front-line protection against those that threaten us and our environment. Stay informed by signing up at northerngasgala.org.uk, to ensure you receive an invitation to this most poignant of parties.

All those signed-up at northerngasgala.org.uk will, when the Gala beckons, receive a text message with a start time.

WARMING! The arctic is melting. Frack less. Fly less.


Bilderberg fringe festival, 6-9 June in Watford

Posted: May 17th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Action, Events | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

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Hertfordshire Constabulary have confirmed to the Watford Observer that, in the words of the Observer, a ‘shadowy summit of world leaders [is] taking place in Watford next month.

It continues: ”The Bilderberg Group of around 140 influential figures including royalty, politicians and business leaders will meet at The Grove from June 6 to June 9… The group’s annual meetings have in the past attracted storms of protests from campaigners who accuse it of hijacking the democratic process.’

So local people are putting on a free framily-friendly fringe festival to Occupy Bilderberg. There’ll be:

  • International Speakers
  • Comedians
  • ‘Hug a Bilderberger’
  • Music
  • Poetry and spoken word
  • Delicious local and ethically sourced food and drink, plus grilled Bilderburgers.

All ages welcome, although it should be pointed out that this is not the same as the toddler-focussed consumer Build-a-Bear festival, which is what I thought when I first heard about it.

Updates and more info are at bilderberg2013.co.uk and bilderbergfringefestival.co.uk.


Barnet Library squatters to appeal eviction

Posted: December 19th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Action | Tags: , , | No Comments »

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Squatters and anti-cuts activists at the Friern Barnet Library pleged to appeal eviction to the Court of Appeal. Perhaps they’ll rub shoulders with us at our Court of Appeal date around 15th January.

In yesterdays Guardian: “Squatters who have occupied a north London library for more than three months with the blessing of the local community are to be evicted, a judge has ruled. However, the court recognised their right to protest and the illegal tenants have been given a six-week stay of execution before they will be moved on.”


The fight to save squatting

Posted: March 27th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Media | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Today the House of Lords will debate plans to criminalise squatting for a final time. Clause 145 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill (LASPO), which seeks to criminalise squatting in residential properties, will be scrutinised as Baroness Sue Miller (Lib Dem) and Baroness Lister (Labour) have tabled a number of amendments to mitigate some of its worst impacts on homeless and vulnerable people.

Additional concerns have also been raised in the last week, with the release of a report in The Guardian which suggests this clause could cost the taxpayer as much as £790million over the next five years, outweighing the entire savings that the rest of the Bill intends to make.

I’m a squatter myself, so it’s not surprising that I’m urging peers today to vote against criminalization. But the squatter community’s unlikely allies in this fight tell a different story, one of widespread opposition from many quarters.

Last summer the government held a three month consultation entitled “Options for dealing with squatting”. One might have expected negative results given the sustained right-wing media coverage attacking squatters both before and during the consultation period. However, out of the 2217 people who responded to the consultation, 96% didn’t want to see any action taken to criminalise squatting. Even more surprisingly, only 10 people bothered to write in to say they had been a victim of squatting. But the government ignored its own consultation, and three days before the LASPO bill was to be voted on in the House of Commons, Ken Clarke tacked on an amendment to criminalise squatting in residential properties – this despite the fact that there is no direct link between squatting and legal aid. 

From the Metropolitan Police to the Law Society, unexpected bodies have come out against the government’s proposals to criminalise squatting. The Law Society and the Criminal Bar Association are adamant that the existing laws are already more than adequate and the Metropolitan Police have even said that the law is already “broadly in the right place”. 160 leading legal experts wrote a letter to the government which explained the misleading information being put out around the already existing laws. Many organisations, including the Magistrates Association, have also expressed concerns about the cost of it all during a time of austerity measures.

The homeless charity Crisis have urged the Government to scrap the proposals and have argued strongly against essentially making homeless and vulnerable people criminals for attempting to gain a roof over their heads. Crisis research shows that 40% of homeless people have used squatting as a last resort to prevent sleeping rough. It’s one thing to criminalise squatting, it’s another thing to do it in the middle of a housing crisis when homelessness rates are soaring.

Even Channel 4 went squatting to investigate the situation. George Clarke’s programme ‘The Great British Property Scandal’ highlighted the fundamental problem. There are an estimated 1 million properties lying empty across the UK. Squatting attempts to utilise these empty buildings – criminalisation will only encourage owners who own empty properties to keep them empty.

Squatting for community self-defence

I live at Grow Heathrow, a squatted community garden in the path of the now cancelled Heathrow 3rd runway. Set up in March 2010 in opposition to the runway and the destruction of the homes in its path, the community market garden project continues to thrive with the support of the local community, local council and MP.  After 30 tonnes of rubbish were cleared from the site, what was an abandoned wasteland now hosts numerous community events and gatherings. Although exempt from the proposed new law (as commercial property and not residential), many more similar projects around the UK will be threatened if the LAPSO bill passes.

Now, more than ever before, we need places like Grow Heathrow to build community self-defence. As the majority in this country struggle under the government’s harsh austerity programme, it will be more important to reclaim space anywhere we can. Land distribution patterns in this country reveal the true extent of inequality and privilege – 1% of the population own 70% of the land. Squatting is one method for reversing this trend.

The creation of alternative worlds is inextricably linked to confronting this one and from my experience squatting does both things. ‘Occupy, create, resist’ is a notion that resonates strongly at Grow Heathrow. Occupy: take space, often made possible by squatting a piece of land or a building. Create: create the world you want to live in and would one day be willing to defend. And then Resist: once you come under attack for creating something which doesn’t match with the ideals of the state or global capitalism.

Today, squatters across the country are in ‘Resist’ mode, standing together with all those who recognise that criminalisation is unnecessary, unjust and unaffordable. We can’t allow the government to bypass democracy just in order to send out a message.

This blog has been re-posted from Open Democracy


Communities in crisis

Posted: December 6th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

The riots over the summer put things into perspective and highlighted the need for community spaces. For me, the riots served as a very harsh reminder of the lack of tight-knit community in our country.

It was sad to see those cases where looting and rioting spread to local community shops, because of the realisation that those involved didn’t feel they were attacking their own community. This is important because it means they don’t share any ownership or have any relationship to their local community in the first place. This surely needs to be addressed before putting lots of people in prison.

In Leeds one day this summer, a group of people gathered to discuss the theme of ‘Communities in Crisis’. The aim was to explore from a variety of perspectives and contexts how and why communities develop qualities of self-reliance, resilience and empowerment in times of crisis. The discussions formed part of a research project led by Paul Chatterton, a lecturer at Leeds University who runs an MA in Activism and Social Change, which is attempting to understand contemporary communities within the dynamics of crisis.

It is now widely accepted that we are currently facing a time of converging crises – a climate crisis, peak oil, and an ever deepening financial crisis. The ‘Communities in crisis’ project defines crisis as “a crucial or decisive point or situation, a moment of ‘creative destruction’ where the dismantling of old infrastructures creates a space for social innovation.” The present moment in UK society, characterised by austerity cuts following a major crisis of capitalism, is creating crises for many communities. However, although lots of people are struggling and being hit hard it’s not all doom and gloom. These moments of “creative destruction” give opportunities for people to discover new ways of being and new ways of claiming power over their everyday lives. Many communities are starting to do this – according to the ‘Communities in Crisis’ research project – “seeking out of necessity or intent, new coping mechanisms based on greater resilience, self-help and participation.”

An Occupy LSX banner on the steps of St Pauls Catherdral

The Occupy movement which continues to grow both globally and in the UK after the occupation of an old disused bank, are leading the way by opening the space for important discussions that need to take place. But what happens when these moments of convergence end? What steps do we take next when we go back to our own communities? This is something which the Climate Camp movement failed to work out and this is where in my opinion long term and sustainable community organising is a necessity.

Starting up a Transition Town has got to be one solution but there are others too. Squatting in the middle of a housing crisis makes sense when there are over 700,000 properties lying empty across the UK. Social centres, info-shops, community gardens – anything which offers an alternative space for communities to gather in times of crises is going to be useful heading into the future. These spaces also build excitement – an excitement that shows we can organise differently.

'Grow Heathrow' photo campaign

On a very basic level this is one of the things we are trying to do with Transition Heathrow. Grow Heathrow – a squatted community garden space, is at its heart a community experiment in action. Everything that happens at Grow Heathrow is an experiment and we are always trying and learning new ways of doing things and new ways of relating to each other. We might not get it right all the time but what is most exciting is the creation of new ways of organising.

Our participation in a ‘Fireworks and Fun Day’ event recently, organised in one of the local Heathrow Villages, may at first appear unrelated to our goal of “building resilient Heathrow communities, capable of collectively coping with the injustices and threats of climate change and peak oil”. However this would be to miss the essential connectedness of our various aims. Events such as these which bring communities together couldn’t be more essential for building resilience and we had a great day with our local community hosting a conker championships and planting up bulbs on the village green. And without strong local communities, we cannot develop the grassroots solutions necessary for combating the global challenges that we face.

This blog was taken from the Transition Network website as part of their social reporting pilot project.