Grow Heathrow squatters resist eviction
Eviction is on the cards for the Grow Heathrow squatters who have occupied a half-acre plot of land in Sipson to protest against the construction of a third runway at Heathrow. The political activists claim that they will “peacefully resist” eviction.
The squatters have been on the greenbelt plot since March 2010. Over the past four years, they have built their own homes, installed solar panels, a wind turbine, and started growing their own fruits and vegetables. The squatters also run free community workshops in green skills, such as foraging, DIY, sewing and bike repair.
However, the squat is illegal and they face arrest which can lead to a six month prison sentence and a £5,000 fine. They have been informed that they must leave the land to its lawful owner, businessman Imran Malik. Last July, Mr Malik successfully secured a ruling to evict the group, as a result the bailiffs, and perhaps the police, would be helping Mr Malik with the eviction.
Nonetheless, Grow Heathrow have cultivated the support of local residents, as well as other activists and local MPs, making their eviction much more difficult. The group has raised £50,000 through a crowd-funding project in an attempt to purchase the land from Mr Malik. Though they claim the offer is “above market value”, Mr Malik has declined.
John McDonnell, MP for Hayes and Harlington, is in support of the squatters. McDonnell said: “It’s a demonstration that a small patch of land can be very environmentally sustainable. It’s a shining example of what you can do through voluntary effort. What Grow Heathrow have done is turned the site back to what it was, an environmental benefit for the area.”
Jeff Nelson, operations director of London Safety Clean, has dealt with many illegal squatters over the years. He is less convinced.
Mr Nelson said: “Though I can understand the motivations behind the Grow Heathrow group, at the end of the day, they are still squatting on land which does not belong to them. There are alternative ways to protest which do not involve breaking the law.”
Despite the continued efforts of Grow Heathrow and the Conservative’s 2010 manifesto promise not to construct a third runway, no final decisions about Heathrow’s future have been made. The independent Airport Commission has rejected the Thames Estuary airport proposal, leaving only Gatwick and Heathrow as the remaining options for airport expansion. London mayor Boris Johnson has warned that the Conservatives may now take a u-turn on their pledge.