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Bowl Court Social Centre Days Are Numbered

2.2 | 12.06.2008 16:18 | 2008 Days Of Action For Autonomous Spaces | Free Spaces | History | Social Struggles | London

The courting hearing today ruled in favor of the property developers claiming ownership of the derelict warehouse in Bowl Court that has been used as a radical social centre since openning 23rd March. The David vs Goliath case was clearly motivated by Hammersons desire to prevent the new social centre becoming a hub for the local campaigns against their proposed development for the area, the biggest development in London since Docklands in the eighties.

David vs Goliath
David vs Goliath

The victorian social centre is located in the Shoreditch Street Conservation area and previous attempts to obtain planning consent for demolition have been refused. The neighboring warehouse was knocked down without planning permission by Gamma City Developments which was purchased by Hammerson, along with vast tracts of lands earmarked to become a forrest of glass skyscrapers over the next ten years. Number 6 Bowl Court was left empty for years with a gaping hole cut in the roof and deep excavations dug around it's external walls, apparently with the aim of speeding up it's decay to justify future applications for demolition.

Although at least two other squatters occupy nearby properties which Hammerson claim to own, the attempts to evict Bowl Court came about only as it became apparent that the social centre was becoming involved in the local campaigns against the redevelopment plans for the area. The company had been informed of the occupation on the 24th March but only made moves to repossess the property three weeks ago.

In court, the defendants questioned the evidence presented by the claimants regarding ownership. Their land registry title was contradicted by titles known to be held by other companies. There was also issue over whether the notice of the proceedings had been correctly served as residential property requires five days clear notice but only three had been given. With no professional representation, the defendants were unable to put together a robust defense and also found themselves threatened with over £21,000 in costs. However, the judge also considered the costs to be outrageously inflated an choose to award just £2,500 in costs.

The future of the social centre is now obviously in doubt but in the meantime events continue as normal. See for details.