Squatters' press release
Thursday, April 8, 2004

Local residents have taken over the former Tourist Information Centre building in Hebden Bridge. They say they object to the sale of the publicly-owned building to the private sector for development, when local people are unable to afford homes because of soaring prices. The residents also say they want to draw attention to links between damaging floods that have hit Calderdale, and the environmental damage done by increasing use of air travel.

TIC squatted

They have hung a banner in the window of the building re-naming it "The People's Information Centre." They say they are also opening a "free shop" for people to bring whatever goods they want to donate, and take whatever goods they need. The occupation began during the early hours of Wednesday, April 7. The residents, who themselves live in various rented, owned, and low-impact homes, say they are angry that the building, which was for the use and benefit of the community, is being privatized, "to provide more profit for the wealthy."

One said: "The housing situation is already disastrous for local young people, and if it continues, Hebden will become a ghost town, catering mainly for commuters and visitors. And when the locals and the local shops are priced out by homogenous developments and chains, what will be left for the visitors to come for? We want the council to ensure that all housing developments are 50% social housing - affordable housing created to meet local needs not profit - and built to the highest ecological standards."

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Residents involved in the occupation said they want to remind people that there is more to life than shopping. "The modern fixation with ever-increasing consumption not only does not bring lasting happiness, but also destroys other communities, lands and livelihoods. We believe this cannot go on, and that at some point it will be necessary to follow another definition of progress, based on cultural vibrancy, strength of community, ecological resilience and social diversity - not material consumption.

"We are creating a temporary free shop, called 'Freesources," said one resident. "It will work on a 'bring and take' principle - bring something, take anything. This town, and indeed this planet, has enough for everyone, if we learn to stop seeing every resource as something to be exploited for profit."

The locals also want to offer some important "tourist information" about the dangerous impact of increasing plane use. Another resident said "The expansion of aviation is the fastest growing cause of carbon emissions, which are already causing crazy weather patterns. In the next 10-50 years, this will be no longer a nuisance but rather a global catastrophe, and people must start limiting their fossil fuel use NOW. Flying is one area people really can choose to not participate in - we want people to stay and discover the wonders of the UK - or travel abroad by train instead."

The residents may be contacted on 07963 512019.

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