The Climate Camp activists in Lewes are to be evicted after Judge Richard Hayward granted East Sussex County council permission to do so at Brighton County court.
The activists had been using the empty space at St Anne’s School in Lewes to campaign about the negative implications supermarkets had on towns and communities.
The activists themselves had been getting on well with the local residents, helping them set up a community garden which would provide food for the town.
Judge Hayward indeed recognised the positive aspect of the Climate Camp in his verdict: “I suggest East Sussex County Council start making plans for these premises. Leaving them derelict for years on end, no wonder people grumble.
“It may well be said that public authorities who abandon buildings and do not put them to good use are inviting others to find a use for those premises.”
There has been some disquiet about the situation after the optimism of the ‘St Anne’s Diggers’ project conjured the spirit of the local community, especially it seems, as the council wish to use the space for private development.
A spokesperson from the council mentioned that it was now unlikely to be sold even though the old school building was ‘surplus to requirements’ because of the ‘depressed’ property market: “We have no current plans to demolish the building and no immediate plans to sell the site but we are very concerned about the safety of the building.”
The Old School is a Hanoverian building from 1834 and many do not want to see such a historic building destroyed.
Councillor Ian Eiloart, representative of Lewes Priory on Lewes District Council, gave a statement: “I have an interest in the potential amenity of the site, which has been neglected for the last seven years, for local residents.”
Even though the Climate Camp is to be evicted, the cooperation between the St Anne’s Diggers and the camp along with publicity created by the situation has now influenced local politics sufficiently to have a positive outcome for the Diggers.
The council have now suggested that the space might be used for a community purpose such as allotments or a recreational area.
On their website, the Diggers’ made an optimistic statement: “The short term plan is to take East Sussex County Council up on the offer made in their press release to allow the community temporary use of the land.
“Penny is hoping to meet with the council and the mayor early next week to start negotiations, or at least a consultation to see what Lewes people want to use the land for temporarily.
“The best news of all is that our new mayor went on a planning briefing meeting and discovered that the National Park will call in any application to demolish the buildings – this means it will need their permission for any demolition to go ahead. So that’s put a spanner in their works then!”
A Climate Camp spokesperson was unavailable for comment but their reaction to the creation of St Anne’s Diggers a few weeks ago suggests that whilst they may be upset to be evicted they will be pleased with what they have achieved with the community at the old school.
They may be less pleased however with what has happened at the Mound community garden in North Laine. At 5am on 19 May bailiffs broke up and destroyed the garden.
The Mound website provides a grave picture, explaining that “they even completely levelled the mound in the middle of the garden with a JCB digger, despite being warned by gardeners that chunks of asbestos were likely present inside of it”.