Oxford buccanners face imminent raid by BW pirates

Gerrard Winstanley office at evnuk.org.uk
Tue May 9 21:53:06 BST 2006

On your boat
By Emma-Kate Lidbury

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Protesters who have been squatting at an Oxford boatyard for more than
10 months could be evicted at any time from today.

The Castle Mill boatyard in Jericho has been occupied by boaters since
last summer, when they began their campaign to keep the site for
community use.

Their battle has rumbled on and at times they have seen glimmers of
hope - but yesterday British Waterways, owners of the site, confirmed
that from this morning they have the power to evict the protesters.

They are now in the final stages of deciding who to sell the site to
and say they will hand over the deeds together with an empty boatyard.

But this morning, the protesters are going to Oxford County Court to
ask for a stay of execution in the hope of delaying eviction.

Yesterday, they carried out repairs to boats at the site, using a
crane to winch boats off the water and into the yard, in an attempt to
demonstrate that the site is needed to undertake maintenance work.

Campaigner Conrad Williams said: "Oxford needs to have a place where
repairs can be carried out and we have done this to prove we are not
just a bunch of squatters. We need this yard.

"We have been told that from any time today until June 9 we could be

The protesters say they will fight British Waterways 'every step of
the way' and will ensure there are plenty of people at the site when
the bailiffs call.

"We are not going to get heavy handed," said another protester. "We
will not fight hand to hand because this has been a civil campaign and
we will leave peacefully - eventually.

"We are going before the judge today in the hope of getting a stay of
execution and we will see what he has to say."

The protesters say they have support from scores of Jericho residents
following a leafleting campaign asking them to help patrol the
boatyard day and night.

British Waterways spokesman Eugene Baston said there was no defence in
law for the squatters to be at the site.

He said: "The sale of the land, following eviction of the occupiers,
is proceeding as we had planned.

"The illegal occupiers' decision to raise boats onto the land
yesterday is directly related to the lawful eviction of these
occupiers and nothing to do with boat maintenance.

"Their contention that alternative facilities do not exist is incorrect.

"Alternative and equally accessible facilities do exist within three
miles from Castle Mill and incorporate all services previously
provided at this now derelict site."

Six private companies have placed bids for the land plus Oxford City
Council. The asking price was £4m and the deadline for tenders came at
the end of April.

8:48am today

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