Ever daydream during one of those long, boring school lectures on the periodic table and King What’s-his-face the 10th that something interesting would actually happen at yer school?
Like the school closing down, for instance, and then becoming a battleground between squatters who want to turn it into a space for alternative energies projects and a community centre for local kids, and developers who want to turn it into yet another soulless housing estate?? Well, that’s exactly what’s happened at an abandoned primary school in South London.
The squatters took up residence in Harland First School in Colliers Wood last autumn following the local Council’s decision to close the school in August and sell the land to property developers Kings Oak Homes, part of the giant Barratt group. Kings Oak Homes want to demolish the school and build thousands of ugly, poorly-constructed, identical boxes.
The squatters, on the other hand, have been running the school as a social centre and free space since Christmas, with more than a dozen local children regularly using the facilities, including a fully-equipped computer area. The group, which calls itself Alternate Energies, say they want to protect the school for future generations and have been forced to take action as the land is protected by a covenant that forbids any use other than education. In court this winter, however, the covenant was dismissed by a judge who ruled that now that Kings Oak Homes has bought the property, the company can do whatever they want with it.
On Monday, police and bailiffs moved in to remove the squatters but were prevented when many, including local children, barricaded themselves onto the roof, dancing in the face of the big heavies who’d come to turf them off their space.
To try and force them out, a representative from Kings Oak Homes entered the building and disabled the electrical circuits. The water was also turned off. But Alternate Energies is holding strong. A representative for the group named Dave told SchNEWS that the local area has no youth clubs or facilities for the local kids at all.
"We have cleaned this site up and are only interested in ensuring it is preserved as an educational and social space," says Dave.
The group is interested in getting more people down, people are who are interested in permaculture, alternative energies, and hard work.
If you’re interested in helping the group to save their space, contact Dave on 07986 465552.
south london press? indymedia? does someone want to get down there?
Squatters defy eviction
Friday 6th February 2004
By Matt Rickard
A derelict primary school in Colliers Wood has become a battleground between eco-squatters who want to preserve it and developers who want to turn it into housing.
A highly organised band of eco-squatters took up residence in Harland First School in Brangwyn Crescent following Merton Council's decision in January to sell the land to property developers Kings Oak Homes, part of the giant Barratt group.
On Monday, police and bailiffs moved in to remove the squatters but were prevented when many, including local children, barricaded themselves on the roof.
The squatters claim they are protecting the school for future generations and have been forced to take the action as the land is protected by a covenant that forbids any other use other than education.
They have been running the school as a learning establishment since Christmas Day and more than a dozen local children regularly use the facilities, including a fully-equipped computer area.
To force them out, a representative from Kings Oak Homes entered the building and disabled the electrical circuits. The water was also turned off.
A representative of the squatters, who call themselves Alternate Energies seven homeless people dedicated to preserving educational and social spaces and would only give his name as Dave, denied they were troublemakers.
"We have cleaned this site up and are only interested in ensuring it is preserved as an educational and social space.
"We will be suing Kings Oak Homes for criminal negligence as the school was left in a highly dangerous state, with exposed live cables everywhere."
A spokesman for Kings Oak Homes denied this, saying local electrical suppliers EDF Energy had since checked that the school was safe.
"As the legal owner of this site, Kings Oak has taken the issue of responsibility in respect of health and safety very seriously."
Howard Joy, Merton's acting property management and review manager said the school had been identified as surplus in the council's schools reorganisation project. It closed on August 31 and was sold to Kings Oak on January 5.
He refused to make further comment.