Monday, 16 May 2011

Activists Wanted For Lewes as Council Moves to Evict

Entrance to camp
A call out has been made for more eco protestors at a recently occupied school in Lewes, near Brighton, as an eviction notice was served ordering their removal in a week's time. 
  The council want the protestors off the land by 4PM on Friday May 25 - one-sided BBC link. *
  Originally intending to occupy St Anne's School for only one week, organisers immediately realised the vast potential of the former special needs school, situated in an idylic and historical East Sussex market town - SchNEWS link describing the initial occupation - and started digging their feet in.  Strong support from the locals focused their energy.
  County Hall bosses had their sights on the land which their council offices overlook, but were dismayed to find that activists beat them to it.  It's in the word - active. ;)

Brown envelopes and rounds of golf. 
In the shadow of the Town Hall Graspers, a patch of green. 
Setting their own precedent with an ugly lump of concrete,
the Fat Cats demonstrate their attitude to planning
 permission in a rambling country market town
 who's history stretches back beyond the Saxons. 
     Veteran campaigner Marina Pepper, a former chair of Lewes District Council, has been leading the fight to save the site.  From her own camp on high ground (a tarp strung out in the open) just metres from the concrete council offices, she looks out at the smartly presented admin area below her.  A kids area, comms tent, work space, social space, storage tent and cookhouse are the hub of the location.
  Further afield is a covered toilet and then the campsite.
  A motto on the front entrance reads - Use It Or Lose It - and the locals seem to agree.  A recent copy of the town's newspaper was full of glowing comments by neighbours, many of whom now regularly visit the school bearing food and construction materials.  There was only one negative voice (allegedly); an un-named resident referred to by an un-named council press officer.

Hats Off!! - Marina Pepper, veteran activist who gets things done -
 and one of the creators of Meltdown
   Work is ongoing in the very shadow of the ugly council buildings whose bosses want to trash the place for executive homes. 
  The council leader there earns between £165,000 and £181,000 - link.  East and West Sussex are both secretive regarding their chief executives pay; they consider the amount siphoned from resident's house-keeping budgets and into a Fat Cat's trousers to be something that should be hidden from recession-hit locals. This isn't an approach set in legalese stone - Brighton and Hove openly states their council chief's salary.   Locals - bear that furtive secrecy in mind when your library or school closes; there's £26 million of cuts currently smashing into East Sussex, where the eye-watering council tax rates in some cases are set at over £3,000 - link.  Bear it in mind come election time, too, when the MPs come a-grinning and a-baby-hugging.
Thriving local shops... in the shadow of Tescos.
 The Big Three - retail versions of drift nets. 
  From defences such as tripods and Harris fencing, to preparing ground, planting, erecting tents and constructing toilet facilities, they've been busy.  Workshops for anyone interested are a constant theme, and Sussex Police described the campers as peaceful - link.  Despite the glowing articles from Lewes' own tiny newspaper, regional big boy the Brighton Argus has done a typical mainstream media sneer job thanks to desk-bound hack Rebecca Evans - link.  The news desk there seems more concerned about maintaining the flow of drivel press releases than focusing on the community.  After all, when the climate campaigners have long gone, the Argus will still be wanting the ad revenue and slanted press releases of the council.  Council ad revenue = your taxes.  It's easy, it's cheap - and the corporate news types can get by on fewer journalists.  Which means more cash for them.  Conflict - Media - link.
  Tuesday 1400 hrs update - Director of Corporate Resources - 'We have been as patient as possible but we are now beginning to get complaints about the camp from near neighbours.'  BBC link
  On emailing Mr Nolan a media request for further information on these 'residents'  - names, numbers of complainants, complaints of what specifically - I have yet to receive a reply.  Like it says on the tin; we don't have to divulge info on the bosses pay packet, so there's no chance getting to the root of this unsubstantiated 'fact'.  I'll edit this text accordingly as and when the council produce the evidence.
Thursday 0600 hrs update - email from Martin Fitzgerald
Communications Manager
Governance and Community Services
and Corporate Resources
East Sussex County Council

'Dear Neil. Thank you for your email sent to Sean Nolan today  (17 May).
As this is a media enquiry it has been passed to me to reply.

To date we have had two official complaints from near neighbours.
Best wishes. Martin'

  And my best wishes to you Martin.  I could have done with knowing what the complaints were about, when were they made, are they from the same household etc, were they made by council employees, would a near neighbour include people working in the council offices which the camp is in the shadow of, would it be possible for you to forward a request for an interview with them, etc, etc... but never mind.  I'm sure the Brighton Argus will be straight onto it, LOL!
 Getting there - Post code for Sat Navs: BN7 1LJ.  London to Brighton, then bus or train to Lewes.  Map - link (press on option A - East Sussex County Council, and it will link you there; the camp is in the shadow of the council building and accessible from Rotten Row, from which it is well sign-posted).
Brew time on the no alcohol or drugs site
  Once there - contact Marina for a full briefing.  There's space for tents on a south facing (warm) playing field, running water, plenty of food - and plenty of work; you hippies out there take note.  Work: it's what happens when you do things.  Such as getting off your arses.
  This needs to be stressed - Lewes is a dry site; no drugs or drink.  BBC - link. Conflict blog - link. Argus pressure via readers comments - link.
  One-sided BBC link; response to my complaint...
 'Dear Mr Jackson,
 Thank you for your email.
 It is our policy to seek balance in stories whenever possible.
In this case messages were left with a number of campaigners to ask them
for their views but regrettably none replied.
 While we do not provide a letters section, we are always keen to hear
feedback from readers such as yourself.
 Yours sincerely,
 The BBC News Website team'

And that's the BBC; sorry - you're an activist who's been roughing it for your beliefs for a month so unlikely to have a charged phone.  What we'll do instead is open the forum to those you're opposing, and leave it at that.  Pathetic mainstream media cop-out.  Have they ever heard of stringers, the people on the ground who ACTUALLY GO THERE AND ASK? They can afford millions for their drivel-celebrities; how about some cash for news gathering?  The sheeple actually pay for this service. Conflict - Media

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