Bristol housing crisis: Squatters told to leave derelict land before Christmas

A group of squatters have been told to leave waste land near Bedminster Cricket Ground owned by the Homes and Community Agency before Christmas, despite there being no plans to develop the site until 2020.

Cabinet member with responsibility for housing, Councillor Paul Smith, said: “That location is going to be used for  new housing, including at least 30% affordable houses.”

But the squatters who have been at the site since the start of the month said they had nowhere else secure to go.

Signs have been put up at the site complaining about the eviction, with one saying it was “just to ensure that a few dilapidated buildings and waste land stay empty this Christmas”.

‘tried to illegally evict’

Alex, one of the people occupying the land on Clanage Road, alleges that Homes England tried to illegally evict them with false papers. The government agency have not communicated so that they are relying on the media to hear what will happen to them. It took a judge to compel the HCA to supply the number of their solicitor to the squatters group.

Ben Richie of Bristol Housing Action Movement, a squatters rights and homeless campaigning group, said: “You are just moving people around for no particular benefit for anyone, including the council because they are wasting a lot of money on court cases.

“I don’t think that Bristol City Council are doing enough to about the immediately homeless. They might say that in the next five years or so we are building more housing but that doesn’t help someone who is living on the pavement now.”

Cllr Smith said the council had opened up a number of empty council-owned buildings across the city which are now “available to people who are homeless”.

“One such site is the old Lockleaze school where we will be building housing next year but we have people living in the school before it is demolished and space has been made available for van dwellers,” he added.

“There are even 30 people taken from the streets living in out old housing department office in St. Annes. The sites we’ve got are very successful but we do need more provision.”

‘Worst provision’

Piers Taylor, a government adviser for housing said the country was living through “a period of the worst provision of social housing of all time”.

“The gap between between what a house costs and what people earn is the greatest it has ever been,” he said.

“We need the government to build housing that is leased for subsidised rents.”

Councillor Smith tells us this is temporary issue whilst more housing is built, he said: “I do believe Bristol City Council is doing everything we can. We have to accept that that is not enough.

“But our priority now and continues to be to build as much social and affordable housing across the city as we canto deal with the fundamental underlying housing issue.”

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