Friday, 20 March 2009

The river squatters: a tale for our times

This week I paid a visit to some environmental squatters occupying Raven’s Ait, a little known island on the Thames. Predictably the local press has been full of stories about wild raves and lazy work-shy hippies sponging off the state.

But the truth is much more mundane. They have health and safety log books and wear fluorescent bibs. There is not a cider bottle in sight and they seem to survive on nothing more exiting than strong tea.

Eventually they plan to turn it into the world’s first eco-parliament by giving space to green groups and charities.

One of group, Pano Kroko, an environmental scientist, told me: ‘We want to turn this place into an eco-parliament so the green movement can discuss what we need to do to tackle climate change. Over 40 organisations have been in touch including Green Peace and Earth First saying they want to use the venue.’

But Lib Dem run Kingston Council, which owns the island, is not impressed. It wants to sell Raven’s Ait off or lease it to a private company.

And the courts agree. This week Kingston County Court ruled in the council’s favour and granted it the power to repossess Ravens Ait.

A council spokesperson told me: ‘Kingston Council is keen to regain full possession of Ravens Ait so that the island can be used to benefit local taxpayers. The court has given the occupiers until Monday 23 March to vacate the island.’

So there you have it. In power the Lib Dem's are just as bad as the Tories. And the free market may be in crisis but the ideology of private good public bad is still alive and well.

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