•Newsletter No. 14 Winter 98 •Diggers 350
TLIO newsletter 14. Winter 1998
Diggers 350 Allotments Campaign Mass Trespasses Chapter 7: low impact planning Land rights in the classroom Squatters in trouble Occupations In brief… Settlement News Bits & Pieces International Diary
Give us Land! (Diggers 350)
When asked who are the landless people of Britain,
we reply that we are the children of the earth.
We are men and women of peace.
We are the hands that fertilise the earth.
We are the memory of our land’s struggle.
We are the stubborn dreamers.
Inspired by the actions of Gerrard Winstanley and the Diggers, we will be addressing the fundamental injustice of land ownership in this country. From 30 March to 4 April 1999 – and beyond – groups and individuals will be uniting under the banner of Diggers 350, and fighting to reclaim land and land-rights for all the people of this country.
Don’t miss the biggest, brightest celebration of the year, as we mark the 350th anniversary of the Diggers’ occupation of St George’s Hill in Surrey. Events will include street theatre, talks and entertainment, and a procession to the site of the original Diggers’ settlement, PLUS a long-term (possibly permanent?) land squat on un-owned/unused land.
It all kicks off on Sunday 17 January at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London WC1 (nearest tube Holborn; buses 8, 19, 25, 38, 55, 68, 91, 98, 168, 171, 188, 242), with a big get-together and planning event featuring music, speakers, workshops and surprise guests. For more details and fliers, contact TLIO office. To join the Diggers 350 email list, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Diggers Conference 9 – 10 April 1999, Walton Church, Walton on Thames, Surrey.
Not a dusty, old collection of academics, but an examination and celebration of the Diggers and their ideas, and their importance not only to the nation’s past, but also to its future. The Diggers were actually held prisoner in Walton Church, and it is one of the few buildings remaining which they would have known. Speakers will include the truly wonderful Tony Benn, the gorgeous George Monbiot, and a host of experts on 17th century radicalism. Friday night will see a screening of the film, ‘Winstanley,’ followed by a talk by the producer and members of the cast. Tickets for the whole bash are great value – it’ll set you back less than a tenner if you bring your own lunch (probably – prices yet to be finalised). More details from Andrew Bradstock on 01243 532717 – or see next newsletter.
Our ancestors used to cultivate common fields. We have allotments. Just as greedy squires dispossessed commoners so that they could make a fast guinea, so modern landowners are squeezing out allotment holders in their hunger for new building land. Local authorities parade their Local Agenda 21 documents, but seem happy to let allotments fall into disuse, so that they can sell-off smaller sites, and move the remaining allotment holders elsewhere. At a time when food safety, food miles and public health are increasingly seen as important, local authorities are cheerfully burning their bridges: build on allotments and you can never regain them; sever a person’s contact with the land, and it is unlikely to be reforged.
Allotment problems were tackled at TLIO’s autumn convergence, which identified three main issues: sell-off and development, management problems, and poor public image. From these discussions grew ACT – the Allotments Coalition Trust – a body independent of TLIO (though affiliated to it) which will provide an open network linking allotment groups, organic and permaculture groups, and other interested bodies and individuals, with the express aim of promoting and preserving allotments.
Over the next two years, ACT will compile a database of allotment projects and issues; build a comprehensive and accessible network of legal information; draw together available info on allotments, and commission additional publications as necessary; and organise and promote allotment forums and events. The launch date is September 1999. In the meantime, lots of fund-raising and networking is necessary so that ACT can be fully functional by next spring.
A host of groups and individuals are already on board, including the Henry Doubleday Research Association, the National Federation of City Farms, members of the Local Government Association’s Allotments Advisory Committee, and allotment holders and associations across the country. More links, helpers, sources of useful info (or dosh) are needed. So if you are a contented allotment holder, or an angry and embattled one, if you need advice or can provide it, or if you’re willing to fight for a trowel and a plot of your own, then get in touch with Sophie on 01865 722016. ACT now!
South Downs TLIO has made a major success of its series of mass trespass walks on the downs around Brighton. Up to 200 people turned out for each walk (see pic), generating national publicity, with interviews and debates on national and regional TV and radio.
Till only 60 years ago, walkers on the Downs enjoyed a customary freedom to wander at will. But the lack of legal status for this freedom left no obstacle to the post-war productivist drive which eliminated semi-natural habitats in the interests of agricultural profits.
Access to the countryside is central to the whole question of land-ownership and democracy in the countryside, and is linked to a whole series of land-use issues, including the destruction of wildlife, pollution, rural employment, taxation, and the nature of land ownership itself. The protection of nature goes hand-in-hand with a general right of access: people cannot defend what is hidden from them.
More and more people are beginning to recognise these links, and the Brighton mass trespasses have mobilised new constituencies in the land-rights cause. Trades Council members, the unemployed movement, Labour Party and Marxist groups have all participated. And the latest trespass – on council-owned downland where hunting has been allowed, and access denied, for 70 years – was excitingly dominated by animal rights and hunt sab activists. Other walkers have stated that the organised mass trespasses have given them a real opportunity to explore the South Downs, something which they would not otherwise have had the confidence to do.
The Guardian has reported that 80% of respondents to the government’s consultation on countryside access were in favour of a right to roam, and it looks like this is a fight which we can and will win. The right to roam may provide a sound base from which to raise our demand for a socially-owned, democratic countryside, in which both urban and rural people can collectively make land-use decisions.
Three further mass trespass walks – on the theme of ‘Aristocratic Parks’ – will be held over the winter, on Sunday 17 January, Sunday 14 February, and Sunday 21 March. All walks start from Brighton Station at 10am, and are around 6 miles long. Wrap up warm and bring food and drink. Details from Dave, 01273 620815.
‘To provide access to land for all households… through environmentally sound planning.’
Agenda 21, Chapter 7
TLIO’s Rural Planning Group has burst forth from the chrysalis as the more cunningly titled Chapter 7, emphasising the link between sustainable planning and Agenda 21. Simon Fairlie has secured a year’s funding to promote the soon-to-be-published ‘Defining Rural Sustainability’ which will hit the national media next February – the planning journals have already picked it up, and feature articles are in the pipe-line.
Chapter 7 will go on to examine urban and general planning issues, such as markets, allotments, offices, roads, parking, multiplexes, new mass housing, and inner city regeneration.
Simon will be working from office space in Yeovil, where he can be reached on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Phone/fax/answerphone 01935 472396.
Land-rights in the Classroom
Activists within The Land Is Ours are in the process of setting up an education group to meet the need for an increased awareness in Britain of land issues. The education group will allow us to focus specifically on awareness raising and spreading information: imagine schools’ packs and text books dealing w ith land-rights and real people, and not just with wars, conquerors and industrialists! The education group is applying for ‘affiliated charitable status’ so that we can apply for charitable/education funding. We need people, ideas, educators and resources if we are to get this project off the ground. The first meeting will be held in Oxford at the beginning of January 1999. If you would like to be involved, kept informed, or have any input please get in touch with Ben on 0961 373 385 or e-mail email@example.com
Watch Out, Squatters
The Law Commission’s consultation paper on Land Registration in the 21st century effectively proposes abolition of the rule that squatters who remain on the land or in buildings for 12 years cannot be evicted and can become the owners. This would apply to registered land only. Advisory Service for Squatters and a barrister David (Sk)Watkinson have made responses opposing this. Copies are available from TLIO office (£1)
Avon Ring Road
Site clearance contracts have been signed, so they need fresh activists and campaigners. The first anti-roads site with its own Sustrans cycleway! Pho ne Kebele Cafe 0117 939 9469 or write to SCRAPPIT c/o 84 Colston Street, Bristol.
Birmingham Northern Relief Road
Evictions are happening as we go to press! A Compulsory Purchase Order has been served, so that the local authority can steam in and evict protesters without the need for a court order. Act now! Phone 07970 301978 / 932224
Big Willow Eco-Village
Big Willow Eco-Village is fighting a proposal for a 12 acre commercial development in Crystal Palace Park in south-east London. The proposals include such modern social necessities as a 20-screen multiplex, a whole batch of fast-food joints, something called a ‘leisure shed’, and a really, really big ferris-wheel.
The Eco-Village is home to more than 50 people, but eviction notices have been served, and the heavy guys are expected to come storming in sometime after Christmas.
Locals in the Crystal Palace Campaign have taken the council to Judicial Review, but find that they are ranged against the Royal Fine Arts Commission, English Heritage and the Royal Institute of British Architects, so they’ve got a real fight on their hands.
Contacts: Big Willow Eco Village, 18 Church Road, Upper Norwood, SE19 2ET. Phone 07957 938 784 (camp mobile), 0181 693 8200 or 0181 653 8977 for more info and to get on the phone tree – evictions are imminent!.
Crystal Palace Campaign 0181 244 8399 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. And check the website at http://www.crystal.dircon.co.uk.
Only the best will do in modern, culturally diverse New Britain, so a new development proposal in Cheltenham includes -er – a multiplex, leisure shed, theme pub, supermarket, huge car-park, etc. And it will only result in the loss of the last piece of wild woodland left in the area, as well as doing away with the Honeybourne railway line (now a cycle route and wildlife corridor), the historic Alstone Spa house (which draws the famous Spa water), and a 3.5 acre playing field enjoyed by generations of local children.
Six months in, and Toytown Camp is still going strong, with plenty of positive media coverage. Wish-list includes climbing tat and rope; tunnelling consultants; website services; nice vegan food; and nice, committed people who fancy a winter in Cheltenham. Contact Paul on 01452 812163 for campaign info, or Ali on 0378 454063 for latest on the camp. E-mail email@example.com; website http://come.to/toytown.
STOP PRESS: we’ve just heard that Toytown has had problems with local ‘youths’ burning down what was actually the first teepee to have been built in a tree, so protestors have retreated from the camp for a bit to sort out their next plan of action. Media coverage was supp ortive, but it seems like working with the local kids is going to have to be part of the next step.
Quiet at the moment, with no imminent threat of evictions, and it looks like the land-occupation may outlast the fad for holiday villages. Lots of construction work going on, so why not drop by? Phone 01303 257046, 01303 265737, 0468 945595, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Camp Aardvark was set up last summer to protect the very last green open space in Southampton from being ‘developed’ by a partnership of C of E plc, the higher education establishment and the usual property speculators. Base Camp and tree houses are already up and running. Protesters are all local residents of Southampton, but reinforcements are needed. There are over 40 mature trees in the churchyard, so there’s plenty of room for YOU! Overwhelming support from the local community. Wish-list: climbing gear, please. Phone 0589 650993 (camp mobile)
…was the title of a forum event organised by Public Policy Consultation Services in November. The main speakers were the chief execs of the Countryside Commission and the House Builders’ Federation, but other reps came from English Heritage , MAFF, DETR, RSPB, CPRE, CLA, various local authorities, etc. The Countryside Commission’s CE sees a national crisis of confidence in the planning system, and hopes for a change to allow sustainability and public participation to play central roles (goodness – do you think the message is getting through at last?). The chair of the meeting suggested a Royal Commission on planning. (Cheers to Bruce for attending for TLIO).
Land Registration in the 21st Century
A joint working group has been established to review the legislation governing land registration in England and Wales. This work follows on from the Commission’s Third and Fourth Reports on Land Registration (Law Com Nos 158 & 173) published in 1987 and 1988 respectively. The group published its first report, Transfer of Land: Land Registration (Law Com No 235), on 21.9.95 and its recommendations have now been implemented by the Land Registration Act 1997. A second and final report was published in September 1998, which reconsidered virtually the whole of the Land Registration Act 1925 and parts of the Land Registration Rules 1925. For more info conta ct – J Holbrook, Law Commission, 37-38 John Street, Theobalds Road, London WC1N 2BQ, phone 0171 453 1265
Land Tenure – Abolition of the Feudal System
Discussion Paper No 93, Abolition of the Feudal System, was published by the Scottish Law Commission in July 1991. It considers the replacement of Scottish feudal tenure by a system of absolute ownership. For more info, contact John Dods Scottish Law Commission 140 Causewayside Edinburgh EH9 1PR, phone 0131 668 2131
Landrights for Corporations?
Property ownership may become a Human Right if the US government gets its way. Bad news, especially as EU treaties regard ‘legal persons’ (ie companies, etc) to be much the same as real persons. Will efforts at land re-distribution be seen as a breach of the Human Rights of multinational corporations? Keep watching this space.
New Campaign Group in Sheffield
S.I.N., the Sheffield Information Network, aim to pass on information about protests, actions, and environmental causes, with no political bias. To send or recieve information contact: S.I.N., P.O Box 567, Sheffield, S5 0YS.
27 families live in 1930s plotlands-style chalets in a field which could more profitably be occu pied by executive homes (anyone spotted a homeless executive recently?). Holtsfield’s owners, Elitestone Ltd, have been trying for years to chuck out the residents, or to raise rents so high that they have to move. 20 of the families are now protected under the Rent Act, and Elitestone has so far managed to achieve little more than a debt of around £700 000.
Barclays Bank hold the debt and know what is happening on the site – for example, that Elitestone has refused to accept any rent from those families without Rent Act Protection. So it’s time Barclays did the right thing, and foreclosed on the debt.
The Holtsfield Steering Group are asking people to take their money out of Barclays, and to let the bank know why they are doing it. Letters of protest can also be written to Barclays’ Welsh director, Geraint Jones, at Barclays Bank, PO Box 323, Windsor Court, 3 Windsor Place, Cardiff (but please don’t bother him by phoning 01222 222633, or by bombarding him with faxes on 01222 668691)
Write to Holtsfield c/o 6 Holtsfield, Murton, Swansea, SA3 3AQ. e-mail email@example.com. Find out more about the Holtsfield story on the website at http://iip.co.uk/www/holtsfield.
In the Garden of England…
Plotlanders in mobile homes at West Kingsdown near Sevenoaks face bullying and pressure to leave their homes so that the whole site can be redeveloped more profitably. OAK-COPSE, the Otford and Kingsdown Co-operative Project of Smallholders and Ecologists, is working hard to persuade Sevenoaks District Council that Local Agenda 21 and the plotland lifestyle are closely linked.
While the landlord has trashed veggie beds, refused rent cheques, ignored court orders, etc, beleaguered residents have sought backing for the purchase of the site by a housing association, so that it can be run co-operatively and on the principles of sustainability. Local people, councillors, permaculturalists, organic growers and other greenies were brought together by OAK-COPSE at an excellent public meeting on ‘Eco-Living in Sevenoaks’, where Tony’s slides of Tinker’s Bubble were most persuasive. However, just like Holtsfield, this battle is bound to lumber on.
Contact OAK-COPSE, 6/36 Ashen Grove, East Hill, Knatts Valley, Sevenoaks, Kent TN15 6YE. Phone 01959 524869.
Back the Bubble!
On 17 November, the Area North Committee of South Somerset District Council voted to give planning permission to Tinker’s Bubble, by 8 votes to 5. The permission is for a ‘low impact settlement associated with agricultural and forestry use’ for up to 12 adults, for a trial period of 5 years. Four years ago, the same committee rejected a similar application by 7 votes to 6. When the first application was made, there were 144 letters of objection and six in support. This time there were 27 letters objecting and 20 in support.
A number of ‘stringent conditions’ will be attached to the permission. These are likely to include limitations on the siting, size, number and design of living structures; a limit on the number of cars operated from the site; and adherence to a 5-year management plan.
Although the Area Committee approval is an important hurdle, the battle is by no means over. The Area Committee’s decision has still to be approved by the full District Committee: a posse of hard-line objectors is trying to reverse the decision by either by getting it called in by the Secretary of State, or else by going to judicial review.
Letters of support, congratulating the district council on their decision, will be very helpful when the planning decision is reviewed by the full District Committee in January. So write today! Send your polite and positive messages to Andrew Cato, Planning Area North, South Somerset DC, Old Kelways, Somerton Road, Langport, Somerset.
New eco-village project on derelict, urban site. Find out more – e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Trans-National caravan hits Britain.
In late May/early June 1999, 500 activists from India and all over the developing world will hit Britain as part of a European tour to protest against economic globalisation, free trade and corporate rule. This Trans-National Caravan was originally conceived by the Karnataka State Farmers’ Association, India’s biggest farmers’ movement.
The timing of their visit will coincide with two major political events: the summit of heads of state of the European Union and the meeting of the G8 leaders in Cologne. The G8 meeting, which marks the end of the visit, will be the highest point of the project, and will coincide with actions in financial centres all over the world.
Worldwide Action is planned to coincide with the G8 summit. People’s Global Action want your ideas and energy: write to ‘June 18th’, PO BOX 9656, London, N4 4JY, UK.
The Aymara community of Pahaza, near the Chilean border, are fighting Canadian mining transnational, Takla Star. The Aymara’s land is owned by the whole community, and this collective title is recognised by the law, but the Canadian company is working hard to split the community. For more information, e-mail email@example.com
A community of Guarani Indians in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul are being forced from their ancestral lands. A local judge has ordered that the Guarani Indians be removed from their lands, as they are ‘invaders’ who are illegally occupying land which belongs to ranchers.
Earlier this year, around 700 Guarani Indians started to reoccupy ancestral lands from which they were evicted in the 1970s and 1980s. In the three months since the reoccupation, the 108 families have since built homes and started to plant crops. The Brazilian government Indian Agency had actually started the process of recognising the lands as belonging to the Indians, so this latest judgement comes as a blow to the campaign to secure lasting land rights for the Guarani, Brazil’s largest indigenous group.
More mega-dam problems in Chile, where that country’s largest private company, Endesa, is trying to displace more than 600 people, so that it can flood over 70 km of river valley. Standing in the way are several Mapuche Pehuenche families who live in the area and who have decided not to exchange their land for the land offered by the electrical company. According to Chile’s Indigenous Peoples Act, Endesa needs the authorisation of all the indigenous families living in the area to be able to construct the dam, since it is an Indigenous Protection Area. Endesa’s response? To try and twist the law in its favour, so that the local people will be forced to leave their homes.
Coordinadora Nacional Indigena Campesina (CONIC) represents the small farmers and indigenous (Mayan) people of Guatemala. CONIC fights for land redistribution (2.6% of the population own 65% of arable land), promotes Mayan culture and traditions, and supports local communities. To support the work of CONIC, and for more info, contact Guatemala Solidarity Network, Latin America Bureau, 1 Amwell Street, London EC1R 1UL.
The Nandanavanam Project of the Government of Andhra Pradesh, officially aimed at the beautification of the River Musi in Hyderabad, will destroy the houses and livelihoods of nearly 20,000 people who have lived for 40-50 years in slums in the area affected by the project. The project, which includes building commercial complexes, car parks and landscaping, will sweep away the results of many years of struggle by the shanty dwellers to build a stable community for themselves.
The Mexican government continues to wage war against the indigenous peoples of Chiapas. A new law now makes it impossible for international observers to enter the area, so the Mexican army is able to continue burning homes, and bombing, shooting and gassing people. More information about the situation in Chiapas at the Zapatista Front ( Tel & fax (52-5) 761 4236. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Web: http://spin.com.mx/~floresu/FZLN/ ) and Enlace Civil ( Tel & fax: (52) 967-82104. E-mail: email@example.com. Web: http://www.enlacecivil.org.mx/ ).
In Nigeria, in May of this year, two environmental activists were shot dead by Nigerian soldiers, apparently working for oil giant, Chevron. The two were part of a peaceful protest by over 100 young people against the massive environmental destruction caused by Chevron’s oil exploration activities in the area. The protestors had occupied a barge anchored to a Chevron oil platform, and were waiting for a promised meeting with Chevron officials, when they were attacked by military helicopters. The soldiers were reported to be from a military base near Chevron’s Nigerian HQ. So where are we not going to be buying our petrol in future?
US oil giant Mobil has finally bowed to international pressure and withdrawn from lands belonging to uncontacted Indians in the Peruvian Amazon. This move comes two years after Survival, which campaigns for the rights of tribal peoples, first drew attention to Mobil’s activities. Mobil had been searching for oil in the region. Similar exploration in the same area during the 1980s led to the deaths of as many as 100 isolated Indians from western diseases such as the common cold to which they had no immunity. Under both Peruvian and international law, the Indians have the right to be left alone.
In the Philippines, over 900 families will be displaced by the San Roque Multi-Purpose Dam Project (SRMDP). Many families voluntary moved out of the area, in the belief that the National Power Corporation (NPC) would give them an adequate relocation site. However, NPC was only able to provide a few temporary shelters on a temporary site, which are being rented for P500-P2,000 a month and are located in an area with an inadequate water supply and no electricity at all. Alternative livelihood programs have failed to materialise, and the displaced families have been left homeless and jobless. At early ‘consultation’ meetings, people were made to sign attendance sheets which were later on attached to statements supporting the project. Write to the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, 139 M. Roxas St., Trancoville, Baguio City 2600, Philippines or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tanzania’s Rufiji Delta, which holds the largest concentration of mangrove forests in East Africa, is threatened by a 20,000 hectare shrimp farming project. The project has been strongly opposed by local residents, who depend on the delta’s fish and prawns for their livelihoods. 2,000 Rufiji De lta villagers have filed an application with the Tanzanian High Court for permission to sue the Government over the project. Send polite letters opposing the scheme to The Director, Forest and Beekeeping Division, P. O. Box 426 Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; The Director, Fisheries Department, P.O. Box 2462 Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. (Fax ++255 51 110352); and/or Tanzania Fisheries Research Institute (TAFIRI) P.O. Box 2462 Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Bits & pieces
The Legal Defence and Monitoring Group can provide legal observers, solicitors and other support for demonstrations and pickets in the London area (and can provide training etc. for groups outside London) in return for a donation towards their costs. But to help, they need prior warning and information. Contact LDMG, c/o B.M. Box Haven, London WC1N 3XX to get the full picture.
The University of Glamorgan now offer a BA Honours degree in ‘Environment and Social Values’ – reading list includes Shoard’s This Land is Our Land and our Simon’s Low Impact Development. Further info on website at http://www.glam.ac.uk/schools/sbe/greendegree.htm, or contact Steve Lavender, Univ. of Glamorgan, Pontypridd CF37 1DL, phone 01443 482126, e-mail email@example.com. uk.
Six empty, furnished rooms with computers, large, wild garden, and one shop need to be used. For rent or sale. Evolve a new society to avoid the worst consequences of the coming eco-catastrophe? Good library, tools and practical experience on hand. Located on A40 in Carmarthen town. Elsewhere we have two forests with larch trees that need to be put to good use. Camp in the forest and build, or learn trying to build, a demountable log cabin. To take it away, just pay the value of the standing trees used, which isn’t much, and they will be felled for free. One forest convenient to bus route and train, the other for backpackers, horse-drawn or ATV users, also has grazing rights on a common for 150 sheep or 10 horses or cattle, even estovers over same common. People can camp in the forests while working the trees. Phone 01267 234451 or write to PC, 137 Priory Street, Carmarthen SA31 1LR.
Sunday 10 January: The End of the Road Reunion walk. Start the year in style with 3rd Battle of Newbury – bring a minibus of friends, cos it’s going to be a biggie! Meet Newbury Rail Station 12 noon. Bring your own food and drink plus ribbons, cards, decorations etc. More info from Third Battle of Newbury – now at PO Box 5642, Newbury, RG14 5WG. Phone 07000 785201, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. And check the website at http://www.gn.apc.org/newbury.
Sunday 17 January: Diggers 350 planning and preparation meeting. Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London WC1 (nearest tube Holborn; buses 8, 19, 25, 38, 55, 68, 91, 98, 168, 171, 188, 242). See article on front page for details.
Sunday 17 January: Mass trespass walk with South Downs TLIO. Meet Brighton Station 10am. Bring food and drink and warm clothes. 01273 620815 for details.
Sunday 14 February: Mass trespass walk with South Downs TLIO. Meet Brighton Station 10am. Bring food and drink and warm clothes. 01273 620815 for details.
Wednesday 17 February: Traveller Law Research Unit. Follow-up conference on practical proposals for traveller law reform, Euston Road, London. More info from Rachel Morris, 01222 874580.
Sunday 21 March: Mass trespass walk with South Downs TLIO. Meet Brighton Station 10am. Bring food and drink and warm clothes. 01273 620815 for details.
Also early in the New Year: Woodland Access Campaign & trespass walks in the Oxford area. Different places each week. Further info from Rob, 01865 724425.