York students protest for Barbican Community Centre after eviction

The protesters said the eviction was ‘violent and illegal’

A protest took place at the derelict York Barbican Centre on Saturday 26th June after a group of activists and York students were evicted for occupying the site owned by Persimmon Homes Yorkshire.

The group occupied the site to highlight the lack of development in the 15 years since it was sold to Persimmon Homes but on Friday morning were “violently and illegally evicted” with video footage showing one of the group being physically carried off the site.

A spokesperson for Persimmon Homes told The York Tab “the illegal trespassers” were “removed in full accordance with well-established legal procedures.”

Patrick Thelwell being evicted from the site

They planned for the area to be the Barbican Community Centre, turning it into a community allotment, a pay-as-you-feel food waste cafe, an affordable eco-housing site, a community library, an arts and events space and a People’s Assembly.

After occupying the space, previously owned by the council, the founders of the Barbican Comunity centre “picked litter, made the site safe and clean, and we started turning it into a multi-purpose community space. We built a shed, made plans to make raised beds, grow vegetables, host a library and open the space to the community for all kinds of purposes. We also made it clear that it was a welcome and safe space for travellers and homeless people to stay.”

The land, previously owned by the council, boasted a public swimming pool that was demolished and according to the protestors, sold to Persimmon Homes for nearly £7 million in 2007 with plans to build student housing on the land.

But on Friday 25th June, Persimmon Homes directed Court Enforcement Specialists Limited to evict the group from the area without notice.

A Protest was therefore held on Saturday 26th June with the group demanding the council use a Compulsory Purchase Order to buy back the land and “give it back to the People of York.” They also demanded that the council rescind planning permission for all new hotels and luxury apartments and begins a program of building carbon negative social housing, as well as asking for a People’s Assembly.

The group said: “We are protesting the violent and illegal eviction perpetrated yesterday by Persimmon Homes Ltd, which was supported and facilitated by North Yorkshire Police. We will call loudly and publicly on Persimmon Homes to stop hoarding land for private profit and for the council to compulsorily purchase the site so we can build something to support our local community in York.”

The protest, which included music, art and poetry, was well attended and the group has received support from much of the local community, including local councillor Dave Taylor and York MP Rachael Maskell.

MP Rachael Maskell showing her support

A spokesperson for Persimmon Homes told The York Tab: “The illegal trespassers at our Barbican site have been removed in full accordance with well-established legal procedures. All but one of the trespassers left voluntarily when requested. The site has been made secure and we are continuing to review various options for the land’s future.”

All images courtesy of @llucyeliza

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