Topic: Attention Leeds [Royal Park School Update]
I expect most people in Leeds will be aware of the recent activity at Royal Park School in Hyde Park. For the rest; in 2004 Royal Park Primary School was closed by Leeds City Council, with the promise that the (wonderful, huge, Victorian) building will remain a community space. However it has stood locked shut for the last five years, falling further and further into disrepair. The lead from the roof was "stolen" [removed by the Council] which has caused worse damage to the building from the leaking roofs with each passing winter. The council's real motive is to ignore their previously made promise of keeping the building open to the community, and instead allow the building to become derelict beyond repair, and then to sell the plot of land to a private company to build expensive flats (most likely student accomodation).
Three or so weeks ago a group moved in and squatted the school, reclaiming it for use as a community center. It is a truly incredible building, just walking around it gave me chills of how much potential the place had as a community/ social center. The first-night meeting was truly inspirational, with people putting forward diozens of ideas for the various rooms- cinemas, concert spaces, rehearsal spaces, cafes, etc... Every day people (myself included) worked for hours repairing things in the rooms, cleaning it up- amounting to around £16,000 worth of labour (someone estimated that... I'm not sure who).
Anyways, we got served a court summons, and promptly got evicted from the school two weeks after entering the building. But we could stay in the grounds of the school and in a small seperate building (the caretaker's house)- which received a separate court summons, which was today.
I just caught wind of this:
"ROYAL PARK SCHOOL - Evicted Again!
Tue 01 Dec 09
After a long session in court this morning the District Judge has made a ruling that is final, we must vacate the caretakers house and grounds by 12:00pm Wednesday 2nd December 2009.
Let no one forget that this is a protest for the people, by the people for the return of the Royal Park Primary School building to community use.
Before entering court, we went and tried to negotiate with the council, to save the time and costs of everyone and the court,
* a peaceful timed exit of the building
* court costs to be minimised considering the protest nature of our action
Leeds City Council representatives did not want to know and acted in a dictatorial manor.
A statement was filed from Councillor Illingworth providing notes of council meetings demonstrating the fact that the council representitives in court today were acting without due authority from the elected body of Leeds City Council, yet astoundingly a judgement was still made.
This has been an unfortunate example of Leeds City Council and the powers that be in keeping the people in their place by using a 'sledgehammer to crack a nut'.
Costs have been ordered to be paid by Andrew Beresford, Ted Winter and persons unknown to the amount of £2948.50, an excessive amount by any standards.
While various members of the council, and a local MP, have all supported the action that we have taken by writing letters of support, phoning us and meeting us, it would appear that they are unable to stop the perverse action of the council in its current stance against our campaign, and the undemocratic way in which it reaches its decision, which we believe must be investigated further to expose the endemic corruption within Leeds City Council and its executive body.
There is an election coming up in May 2010 and these people obviously do not want to keep their jobs. We are the people who elected them in to power, and the lip service paid to us is astounding to say the very least.
We urgently need to raise £2948.50 for court costs, plus the gas and electric costs during our stay in the building.
This is a horrible example of a supposedly democratically-informed body totally ignoring the voices of those it should be representing and solely pursuing privately profitable avenues instead. I hate that I feel powerless to make any kind of difference, and individuals have to pay £3000 (on top of the rest of the money they have put into the project) only trying to enact a promise made by the council for the benefit of the community.
Showing major support for a good (is there such a thing?) candidate in the aforementioned May 2010 election is vital. I'm tempted to run myself.
Don't let this issue be forgotten.