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Open Letter To The People of Barnet

Donnie Vortex | 11.06.2014 16:12 | Ecology | London

A message of solidarity to the people of Barnet explaining the efforts of the community in Cat Hill to protect their environment from ruthless landlords London and Quadrant.

Something big has been happening in Barnet; sometimes quiet, sometimes loud. I have had the pleasure of observing, reporting and participating in a growing grassroots social movement seeded in the Friern Barnet Library occupation where I lived and campaigned. Anger and dissatisfaction at Tory policy/piracy, the ineffectual hand-wringing of Labour and whinging submission of Liberal Democrats can be a bit of a bummer, until you start to do something about it of course. Then there is that juicy moment when everyone realises that the power to change things was always squarely in their hands, the community, the neighbourhood, the people who live here.

Now we’re campaigning against a development that no-one wants in Cat Hill. The local residents are firmly saying ‘No’ to a massive housing complex by everybody’s favourite landlord, London and Quadrant, and are rallying to the protection of the woodland’s endangered species, whose homes are being bulldozed. It’s just one part of an extensive network of struggling ecosystems, we’re fighting for ten acres here but we’re also struggling for Barnet, setting an example for community led social change and environmental action.

‘That’s just over my garden fence,’ Say the residents. ‘This is our home, we’re the people who live here, and L&Q are just a bunch of barmy bully-boy developers with a tenants' complaints list that runs into the hundreds of pages, ruining the environment and making our lives hell.’ (See it here online

So, now we’re here too. We’re Occupy Barnet, and so are the people who come out to support. We have two whole camps, one at the front where people can see us and one at the back where we can physically defend (non-violently of course) and show people exactly what it is we’re trying to save. When someone squeezes through the eye-of-the-needle for the first time they exclaim that it’s like going into Narnia. We show them the pond of Domesday book fame, where the Great Crested Newt goes to breed -that’s endangered by the way- and the hollow oak where the Pipestrelle bat roosts, that’s also on the protected species list.

Dull moments are about as rare as a politician’s spine around here, as I write we had just spent the morning demanding that the Tree Protection Fence be put back after a part was taken down by L&Q and an area of the camp cordoned off. The residents turned out in full force and drove the workmen out, crying 'This is our Forest! Get out!'. Later, after the police arrived and explained to L&Q that what they had done was illegal, they, tails between legs, replaced the metal barrier that separates the machines and churned mud from the forest and the camp.

Meanwhile, next to the front, the last remaining structure is demolished by one of those big toothed machines that look like dragons, accidentally tearing down the front fence and causing a gas leak in front of a crowd of protesting residents; just the latest in a series of mishaps and setbacks befalling the development... two doves, against all ecological probability nest in the great oak above our camp, metres from the building site.

And in recent weeks a major breakthrough has occurred, as a long awaited document thought to be lost, but merely ‘misplaced’, has been found tucked away in the dark recesses of an Oxford archive. This document is the final missing piece of the Covenant that proves that the land was originally gifted for educational purposes for perpetuity. A Covenant is a legally binding document which means that all current development is illegal and based upon a fraudulent agreement. Even now, lawyers are scouring their reference books on both sides of the fence, for if the future court case is a success then this could be the end for the L&Q development, a win for the environment, and a win for the people of Barnet .

What will replace it? It can’t be just left as a pile of rubble. The people here would like to see a primary school, and built by a set of developers less odious than the current lot who will not damn the natural environment as L&Q have done.

And make no mistake, the grievances of the residents are by no means unique- but parallel the experiences of all ordinary folk, suffering for the sins of banking cartels, nailed to the cross abreast this troubled England. Property developers run amok, frackers are tearing up the earth beneath our feet, food banks are overwhelmed and the librarys and schools are sold for a quick buck.

Donning my socio-economic witch-doctors cap I diagnose all this as a symptom of a government so pie-eyed about any big corporation flashing a bit of cash that they are willing to disregard the people they’re supposed to represent, disregard our rights and dreams for a better future, disregard entirely our children and the trashed world they will inherit.

But it’s okay, we’re winning. Hope and solidarity are making a comeback.

So here at Cat Hill we have a constructive response to the land grabs carried out by political hijackers without mandate; with people’s assemblies, workshops and upcoming festivities; direct action, community empowerment and late night songs by the campfire. Come on down, we need you as much as you need us.

Yours in solidarity,

Donnie Vortex,

Occupy Barnet

P.S. Green party personas are at least welcome here and will be met with a hot cup of tea, rather than the hot tar and feathers which are dumped on Lib Dem, Conservative, Labour or UKIP candidates. Thanks for the interest so far and try to make yourselves useful.

Find out more at Cat Hill Protest on Facebook . Join us on camp at the Former Middlesex University Campus, Cat Hill Road, EN4 8HU.

Donnie Vortex


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  1. Best of luck to you all! — Anne Frankly