Sigh. Here we go again.
Occupy London has broken into another building, which is being called the School of Ideas this time.
Occupy London will later today formally open its new building, The School of Ideas, corner of Bunhill Road and Featherstone Street, Islington, London EC1Y 8RX – Nearest tube Old Street – a project focusing on education and community engagement, working with local residents.
a) Being transformed into residential accommodation.
b) A project which included £4m for Affordable Housing as a quid-pro quo for the planning permission.
c) Which Permission was fully documented on the City of London website for anyone with the gumption to take a look for 60 seconds.
d) Which was full of asbestos.
e) And work had already started.
i.e., someone was being spectacularly boneheaded, and/or Occupy’s Direct Action team were out of control.
Occupy London retreated in confusion 24 hours later.
Then it was the even more bad-PR of the Occupation of Camden Scout headquarters, with the usual “this building was empty” nonsense. This one ended yesterday. The Occupy London group claim that this one had nothing to do with them.
The one announced this weekend is a former Primary School, which was known as Prior Weston School (PostCode EC1Y 8JA).
The School of Ideas is situated on corner of Bunhill Road and Featherstone Street, Islington EC1Y 8RX in an abandoned school building. It is a space complete with 10 class rooms. We’re open to visitors and guests from 12 noon to 9 pm from Tuesday to Friday and from 10 am to 9 pm on Saturday and Sunday.
It has been opened to the public for the free sharing of ideas and solutions, to help solve the pressing economic, social and environmental challenges globally and locally.
So, how are Occupy London doing this time?
The answer is that they are doing distinctly better than last time, but not being very clever either.
From the top:
a) This time at least, they are not trying to kill themselves by exposure to asbestos. Goodl it helps.
b) “Abandoned school building” is a standard squatting PR self-justification cum boilerplate lie.
The Scout building in Camden had been in use the day before.
The latest building became empty when Prior Weston School moved to it’s new shared campus at Golden Lane in summer 2008:
The School joined with Fortune Park Children’s Centre as we moved onto the new site in April 2008.
Perhaps they didn’t find out that it used to be called “Moorfields Primary School”, and that was referenced as the site of the Planning Application.
A site under active development – or in planning before development – is not abandoned, especially as it is at a late stage in the planning process as I write.
c) Who’s Being Obstructed?
Southern Housing Group own the Occupied site. They are a Housing Association, who’s mission is quite clear:
We provide quality affordable housing and a range of housing options for rent and home ownership.
As one of southern England’s largest housing associations, we own and manage 25,000 homes for more than 66,000 residents. We employ more than 900 people and work with more than 70 local authorities.
d) Timing?Last time Occupy London managed to Occupy a building and stop work where a project to produce homes – an Occupy demand being to help the homeless – had already started.
This time permission has already been granted, in July 2011, to demolish the buildings (P111625).
And the Planning Application above has been appealed by Southern Homes, after rejection by Islington Council, and is currently the subject of a Planning Appeal.
A public enquiry is being held on February 29th.
e) Any criminal activity?
Last time the Direct Action team budget a few days earlier included very heavy duty “Bolt Cutters” (going equipped, Constable?).
This time, the published – approved by the General Assembly – budget includes ladders (to get in?), locks (to replace locks broken to enter?) and building materials (heaven knows what for). And they still have the Bolt Cutters.
My take is that Occupy London might have actually got somewhere this time by approaching the site owner – Southern Housing – and asking for use of the building for a time with proper insurance, and supervision of public activities in place, rather than breaking and entering then leaving all their visitors at risk.
But when you define yourselves by rejection of the system, then position yourself as seeking its overthrow, it is a bit difficult for people to cooperate with you.
And that is especially so if, after everyone has bent over backwards to allow you to protest, you demand that one your main complaints is the removal of the right to protest.
If Occupy is to make any contribution, then the first thing they have to do is come out of their bubble.
[Update 13/2/2012 The Occupy London blog now has a more detailed post about the new Occupy site.]
[Update 2 13/2/2012 1pm.
Via Huff Post:
“Occupy were told they could not inhabit the building as Southern Housing had been granted permission to demolish the school.
But Occupy attests the company’s request has not been approved and argue its school of ideas should be allowed to stay until such permission is gained.”
That’s that then. Via Islington Council.]