Sisters Uncut continue to occupy closed Cheltenham Road library

A disused library, on Cheltenham Road in Bristol, remains under occupation by Sisters Uncut – a social activist group.

The occupation comes as a result of Bristol City Council’s plan to allow developers to renovate the site and build 36 apartment flats along with underground parking.  The library was  closed on 28 February 2017 and is due to be demolished after 53 years in the community.

Sisters Uncut, who have been in occupation of the building since 20 March, are an activist group who campaign for the survivors of domestic abuse.

The site was granted planning permission at the beginning of March
The site was granted planning permission at the beginning of March Picture: Google Maps

Cuts to vital public services

The group were angered by Bristol City Council‘s (BCC) plans to demolish and sell the land to developers as they feel the site could be used for a better social purpose.

A statement on their Facebook group said: “The group are occupying the library to both block the sale of the site to developers and to create a much needed community space for women, non-binary and trans people.”

“Workshops and other events will be hosted to mobilise people to take action against gentrification and the erosion of public spaces, social services and community buildings.”

“Support services are disappearing and refuges around the country are closing down, leaving those fleeing abuse nowhere to go.”

“Support services are disappearing and refuges around the country are closing down, leaving those fleeing abuse nowhere to go.”

“There are currently only 63 beds in refuges in Bristol and survivors often get stuck there for months at a time whilst waiting for a new home.”

“There is a desperate need for more housing and supportive spaces for survivors and yet the council continues to sell off public buildings to private developers with only profits in mind.”

“Cuts to vital public services puts a strain on domestic violence services and forces them to do more with less.”

No stranger to protest: The sisters close Bristol Bridge in Nov 2016
No stranger to protest: The sisters close Bristol Bridge in Nov 2016. Picture Credit: Sisters Uncut

The group are planning to stay in the library for the foreseeable future, pending a court hearing next Thursday.

As part of the occupation, Sisters Uncut are providing workshops ranging from knitting to up-cycling as well as promoting the arts and feminism.

Cleo Lake, who is a Bristol Councillor for Cotham said: “It’s a shame because the old Cheltenham Road library sits on a really big site. I would have loved to of seen the site developed for more affordable housing, social housing and also an area for arts and creativity.”

“The budget cuts on public spending has put a real squeeze on public spaces, but we hope that the long awaited facilities up at Bishopston will provide everything the community want.”

Location, Location, Location

With the Cheltenham Road library now closed, all eyes are now focused on the brand new library facilities currently being built at a new location in Bishopston.  All council funding will be transferred over to this site once completed.

The new location, which has been on the cards for a number of years, will be renovated from what used to be the Bristol North swimming baths and will boast other brand new facilities including apartments and other community spaces.

The projects new residents have been waiting to move in since 2013
The projects new residents have been waiting to move in since 2013. Picture: Google Maps

CW Duke, who are undergoing the project on behalf of BCC, said: “We are currently on site at Bishopston Library on Gloucester Road. The project includes various remedial works along with the completion of the Library with a stunning atrium at this premium location in Bristol just North of the city centre.”

“We are also completing the development of ten apartments above and next to the Library.”

“The building has four floors with the Library, public toilets and common plant areas at ground floor level, upper Library level and apartments at first floor level and apartments only on the second and third floors. The project also includes new M&E installations, fitted kitchens, bathrooms and general decorations throughout.”

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