The news today is that the Canterbury Hall Squatters, a group called 'Viva Six Fingers' after a heroic fighter in the Spanish Civil War have been ordered to quit the Community Center they are occupying on Garstang Road within 24 hours.
It seems the church is selling the building to private developers, who will replace the community centre with housing and business accomodation.
Jonathan Cottam complained that the occupiers voice had not been heard during the court procedings, and that they had only been given a day to prepare their defence.
The squatters are highlighting a set of very similar issues to those that 'Save The Ribble' are protesting about - in particular a cavalier and irresponsible attitude among the 'powers that be' to our valued community facilities.
In the case of Canterbury Hall, it is a much-needed local facility for young people and the community as a whole. In the case of the 'Riverworks' proposals for the River Ribble, which include a barrage across the river and over 4000 houses in the rivers floodplain, it is a much loved river, beautiful green fields, allotments, football pitches and the wildlife of the Ribble Estuary that are under threat.
Some may question the tactics of the squatters - but up to now they have been absolutely peaceful, and the Hall itself is probably in better nick now than on the day they found the back door so conveniently open, and certainly in much better condition than it would have been if it had been left as an unoccupied target for vandalism.
Were any locals from the Deepdale area of Preston ever consulted on this change of use for Canterbury Hall? How else can they register their opposition to this loss of facilities, except through the use of direct action to try to hold on to what the Church has so easily given away?
Perhaps through their stand, the Canterbury Hall people will win recognition of the need for better facilities for communities like Deepdale in Preston - like so many areas of Preston, the council has neglected it, preferring to think about grandiose development plans for the City Centre and the area around the river rather than the needs of ordinary Preston residents.
There is little doubt, as previous protests have shown, that determined peaceful opposition such as that shown by road protesters, people like 'Swampy' and groups like 'Viva Six Fingers' can find many different ways to cause seriously lengthy delays to unpopular socially or environmentally unsound development plans, and enormously increase their costs.
This is why it is so important that Preston City Council should start consulting local people about it's ideas for the Ribble, and carry out an environmental impact assessment of the Riverworks barrage and housing proposals BEFORE spending any more public money on them.
Save The Ribble members will be watching developments at Canterbury Hall with interest - we hope for a peaceful solution, and that the council will recognise the need for community facilities in the area that the squatters have highlighted so clearly.
Labels: direct action