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- HS2 Rebellion activists are defending three protest sites in West London against simultaneous evictions efforts by HS2 hired bailiffs.
- The sites include a fortified former car bodyshop, as well as woodland and roadside camps.
- A lawyer advising the rebels has stated that the use of antiquated common law powers by the bailiffs is highly suspect and the eviction may well be illegal.
- Rebels experienced in resisting evictions are confident their barricades and other defenses will hold through the day and possibly overnight.
- They are preventing the demolition of the nearby family home of severable vulnerable, high-risk individuals.
- HS2 wishes to flatten the properties in order to build a temporary haulage road and a viaduct.
- The resistance is part of the wider Rebellion against HS2 which includes blockades, occupations and actions from London Euston to Birmingham.
- HS2 promises to save the economy and plant lots of trees are meaningless spin to cover their wanton destruction and leeching from the public purse.
- HS2 is the most expensive and environmentally destructive project in UK history – it is time to use taxpayers’ money for the NHS not HS2.
Attempts are underway by HS2 hired bailiffs, known as the National Eviction Team (NET) to simultaneously evict HS2 Rebellion activists from three protest sites in the Colne Valley, West London. This includes trying to remove a dozen locked-on rebels from their home and fortified stronghold in a car mechanic’s former workshop. Campaigners are also in trees in the woodland and field camps.
The eviction of the garage is taking place without legal notification and is of highly questionable legality. Bailiffs are bizarrely using common law powers, which do not apply in cases such as this and cannot be used to negate squatters protections under Section 6 of the 1977 Criminal Law Act. Normally an Eviction Order or at the very least Compulsory Purchase Order powers would be used and the fact that they are not in this instance raises some interesting legal questions as to why not.
Paul Powlesland, a barrister from Lawyers for Nature who has seen the letter being given out by NET to justify the eviction says: “Whilst it is true that a landowner has common law powers to evict trespassers, these powers do not give them a right to breach section 6 of the Criminal Law Act 1977, which makes it a criminal offence to use violence to secure entry to premises, even if that is to evict trespassers. From what we have seen and heard of the eviction of the protesters from the garage they are living in this morning, it looks like the eviction may be unlawful and that a criminal offence is being committed. We will be speaking to the protesters today about the possibility of gaining an injunction to overturn what looks like an illegal eviction.”
The spacious, single story commercial garage, on Dews Lane near Harefield in the Colne Valley, West London, has been occupied since 21st February this year. Activists have converted the building into a proper home, affectionately named ‘Squiddley Dot’, complete with bedrooms, a kitchen and a compost toilet, and built barricades and other defenses, which they believe will allow them to hold out against the eviction for some considerable time, throughout the day and potentially overnight into tomorrow.
HS2 plans to demolish the building, which belongs to car mechanic Ron Ryall, along with the Ryall family’s home of sixty years, which lies on the same road, in order to build a temporary haulage road along which to transport materials for the unwanted railway’s viaduct through the Colne Valley wetlands. As has been widely reported, HS2 is using a compulsory purchase order to force the Ryalls from their home and family business, for considerably less money than they are worth at current market value.
Mr Ryall and his wife, both in their 70s, and their granddaughter, who suffers from seizures, are classed as vulnerable and high-risk persons. They have been attempting to self-isolate through the COVID-19 lockdown, with the added stress of the forced eviction hanging over their heads. They have been in ongoing negotiations for years with no conclusion yet but remain hopeful one may be imminent.
Ron Ryall, 74, car mechanic and the garage’s owner comments: “I’ve lived and worked here my entire life. The way we’ve been treated by these smirking thugs and their lakkies has been nothing short of disgusting. They’re so rich, they think they can get away with anything, that they can just tread on the common man as they like. That this sort of thing can be allowed to go on, in this day and age, beggar’s belief. It’s like something from a bygone era, when the Lord of the Manor could just do with his peasants as he wanted.
Well we’re saying no, we don’t live in the past, we have rights and you can’t treat ordinary folk like this and expect to get away with it. And we wish to say thank you to the people who’ve offered to help and defend us. If only there were more people like them around, then the country and the world would be in a much better state than it now is.”
The environmental protectors have been onsite for the last three years peacefully delaying HS2 destruction of woodland, wetland and plans to drill through an aquifer, which risks contaminating the water supply of 3.2 million people. They are part of the newly formed HS2 Rebellion, which is carrying out blockades of HS2 crime-site compounds, occupations of treehouse villages in ancient woodlands, and the demobilisation of HS2 vehicles and other equipment, all along the proposed route of the track, from Euston Station in Central London to Crackley Woods near Coventry in Warwickshire. Many have been active in opposing HS2 long before this, with Extinction Rebellion, which came into being only 18 months ago and with StopHS2, which has been campaigning tirelessly on the issue for many years.
The 12 environmental protectors locked-on in the former car bodyshop, who have been self-isolating as a unit there since the lockdown began, include veteran activists with invaluable past experience of evictions carried out by the National Enforcement Team (NET). Stars of BBC TV’s, “The Sheriffs are Coming”, NET is a private company which advertises dealing with environmental protestors as its speciality. NET bailiffs notoriously often use illegal, violent and dangerous methods, frequently resulting in injuries to peaceful protesters.
The Squiddley Dot residents include a Doctor of Sustainability, a Green Party Parliamentary candidate and NHS care workers. They have gone to great lengths to prepare for this eviction and are confident that the various defenses which they have devised will pose some really challenging puzzles for NET to overcome. They have been meticulously careful to ensure that none of these will pose any threat of harm to NET staff however and ask that the bailiffs employ the same level of care to ensure no harm comes to any of them.
“It’s a battle of wits”, said Haylie Marie, an NHS worker, environmental protector and Squiddley Dot resident, “we do sort of view the NET with kind of a friendly rivalry, and without any animosity at all, even though they have caused some of us some fairly serious injuries and even though the stakes are so high.
“When you think about why we’re doing this: to protect Ron and his family from having their home knocked down during the pandemic; to defend the woodlands and wetlands, with all the many beautiful species who live here – the bats, the glowworms, the water voles – and who will be murdered if this scheme goes ahead; and then the broader Climate and Ecological Emergency which threatens to kill us all, and possibly even to wipe out all life on the planet. You think of all that, and it really literally is deadly serious.”
The protesters are also concerned that the drilling and pile-driving of 70m stanchions into the chalk aquifer, which HS2 has now started to do just downhill from a hazardous landfill site, in direct contravention of EU water framework and drinking water directives, threatens to contaminate the water supply upon which a quarter of London’s inhabitants depend. Indeed, the water company which pumps this water into West London’s homes and businesses, Affinity Water, has sought after and obtained an indemnity from the Government, which covers its financial losses in the case of just such an eventuality. The issue of exactly what Londoners are expected to drink, in the absence of clean water, has not however been addressed.
In response to recent criticism, HS2 Ltd, has claimed that it will kickstart the economy after the pandemic by creating jobs, and that it is making a ‘green corridor’ by planting more trees than it fells. But the most basic scrutiny exposes these for the hollow promises that they are. £200bn properly invested in the NHS and local transport infrastructure could create far more jobs, providing things that people actually want, and without paying a CEO over £12million, and another 48 senior managers an average of over £4million each of public money. And, newly planted trees will take hundreds of years to provide the same carbon absorption and wildlife benefits as the ancient woodlands being destroyed, even if they survive a single year, which is more than the 50k Colne Valley saplings managed after HS2 failed to water them and they all died, leaving a vast graveyard of empty plastic tubes.
Another of the Squiddley Dot residents, Mark Keir comments: “The Government promised there would be no residential evictions during lockdown but apparently here, as with so many other things, the usual rules which apply to the rest of us do not apply to HS2. It is clear that, had it ever faced democratic scrutiny, the project would have been abandoned, with polls consistently showing 80% of people against it. We need a Citizens Assembly right now, to replace the corrupt and antidemocratic system which makes nonsensical violations of decency like this possible.
“With Office of National Statistics figures showing construction and security workers amongst the most likely to be carrying COVID-19, it is sheer madness for hundreds of them to be shipped all around the country, ignoring social distancing and spreading the virus. Now more than ever, this dangerous and ludicrous monstrosity must be scrapped and the money instead invested in PPE and other equipment for our frontline NHS heroes, who are selflessly ensuring that essential healthcare provision remains in place during this crisis.”
HS2 is the most expensive and environmentally destructive infrastructure project in UK history. Campaigners are calling for the Government to instead use taxpayers’ money for the NHS not HS2.
Notes to editors:
Location of the Squiddley Dot residence and rebel stronghold: Dews Lane, Harefield, Uxbridge, West London, UB9 6JN
Phone: +447459055152 / +447852505826 / +447969083371 / +447726195412 / +447507650042
#HS2Rebellion #NHSnotHS2 #ShutTheSites #StopHS2
About HS2 Rebellion
HS2 Rebellion was formed by activists from StopHS2, who gave been campaigning against HS2 for many years, some for over a decade, joining forces with some from Extinction Rebellion. It is entirely distinct from Extinction Rebellion, which has sworn off actions for the duration of the Coronavirus lockdown, but does form part of the Movement of Movements, alongside other sister groups like Wildlife Rebellion, Animal Rebellion and Global Justice Rebellion.
This people-powered campaign has been formed to stop the ongoing corruption, deceit and devastation of HS2 Ltd. Lives are being threatened, laws flouted and precious ecosystems are being destroyed while the country is in lockdown due to the COVID-19 crisis, a time when the nation is worried and distracted, and widespread protest difficult. To make matters worse, these crimes against democracy, decency and nature are being committed during bird and bat nesting season. As The Woodland Trust recently pointed out, the areas where HS2 work continues apace are facing ‘imminent death’ at exactly the time they should be ‘bursting into life’.
We cannot stand by and watch this happen. As the NHS goes underfunded, money is being burnt and ancient trees are being torn down, we are rising up.
HS2 is set to destroy 108 ancient woodlands and almost 700 wildlife sites. As well as costing the UK tax payer well over £200 billion, the high speed rail project is already causing extensive and irreversible damage to the environment and will be a vast new source of carbon emissions for at least the next 120 years, as well as enabling mass airport expansion.
HS2 Ltd has repeatedly failed to produce a Strategic Environmental Impact Assessment, despite this being a legal requirement.
The Government must scrap HS2 immediately, instead using the money to improve and invest in the NHS, and in local services and projects that adapt to the reality we face in this COVID-19 pandemic and Climate and Ecological Emergency.