|TIC Squatters' final press release|
Posh Flats and Fish Shop Plans get Battering from Locals
"We need community spaces and affordable housing, not more private development", say Hebden Bridge residents.
Local residents who took over a former Council building in West Yorkshire for five days over Easter have declared the occupation a resounding success.
The residents occupied the former Tourist Information Centre in the Pennine town of Hebden Bridge. The building has been handed to a developer by Calderdale Council. The occupiers said they wanted to highlight the threat the former textile community is under from unsustainable development and soaring house prices. They opened a Free Shop, called Freesources , offering tea, food, clothes, books and toys for free, stating we believe that without profit, there is plenty for all. They also gave out tourist information such as don t fly anywhere it s destroying the planet! Take the train instead.
At first we wondered if we would run out of free things , said an organiser. Instead, everyone who came down brought something to donate or share there was a continuous supply of cake. Hundreds of locals were so happy to have this community space back again, even for a few days they came in and arranged events like storytelling, and an acoustic music night. Surprisingly, considering we emphasised that everything was free and donations weren t really required, we have made a small surplus! This will be donated to a local charity. Which all goes to show that Hebden Bridge both needs a community drop-in space and can support one. People have been asking a lot of questions that need immediate answers, such as why don t we have a drop-in place like this in the community? What other buildings currently owned by the council are under threat of a quiet sale?
It was brilliant to be able to spend all day in a child-friendly space, without feeling you had to keep purchasing things , said Shona, mother of Jacob, age 14 months.
A source close to the Calderdale Council explained that the original Hebden Council bought the building in 1972 for 6,000 before that it had been a doctor s surgery and chemist s. When the Hebden Council disbanded in 1974 the building passed into the custodianship of the Calderdale Council, who used 100% grant money 75% from the Countryside Commission to convert the building for public use.
For around 30 years it served as a tourist information centre. The centre was transferred to a new building last year, resulting in the loss of two exhibition spaces, meeting room and a convenient central location . The old building was handed over recently.
Susan Quick of Enabling Theatre said she had asked for the use of part of the building for use by her group, as had a local cycle shop. She said the Council told her there were problems with disabled access into the building.
That is rubbish, said Susan, who is disabled herself and lives in Hebden Bridge How could Calderdale Council have even considered trading this public building, which is three stories and has 11 rooms of varying sizes as well as kitchen, bathrooms, and storage space? The new place is not much more than a tourist information counter plus an unchanging display aimed at children only. Despite what the Council says, the original building could have been converted to have appropriate disabled access. I am disabled and refuse to be used as an excuse for public buildings being given away. It s outrageous this is to become more expensive flats and a restaurant. The restaurant is rumoured to be fish chain Harry Ramsden s, although it is unclear whether planning permission has cleared or not.
The locals opened the building to the public on the morning of Thursday April 8. Jim Brown, the centre s new owner, well-known in Hebden for turning a series of buildings into upmarket apartments, attempted to have them removed by the police. However the police acknowledged that the locals were legally squatting the building, and Brown s representatives left amicably after boarding up a window.
This conveniently supplied us with a dark room to show films during the daytime! said an occupier.
The occupiers opened a Comment Book for visitors to the centre to express their opinions about the People s Information Centre and free shop, and the occupation of the building. Comments came from dozens of callers including local people and visitors from across Britain.
HEBDEN BRIDGE INFO CENTRE: DISABLED ACCESS
Calderdale Council claim: The Council sold the former Tourist Information Centre in order to fund the development of a new tourist information centre on a new site in Hebden Bridge. The new building complies with the Disability Discrimination Act, ensuring access to public areas of the building, something which could not be achieved in the old property.
Really? All it needed was a ramp, possibly a widened doorframe, to permit someone in a wheelchair to visit.
The new Disability Discrimination Act requires employers to ensure that employees have a wheelchair accessible toilet. Would it really have been quite impossible to add a ground floor toilet in the old Tourist Information Centre?
The public had access to four large rooms on the ground floor. There were frequent art exhibitions. And displays re requests for planning permission. I am sure a wheelchair accessible toilet could quite easily have been built in one of the four rooms. The new building only has room for general information.
The old building also had an upstairs meeting room which hosted frequent public meetings. For example, the local World Development Group invited all four candidates for the forthcoming General Election discussing overseas development issues.
In order to ensure full access meeting could be held in one of the four ground floor rooms. The new Tourist Information Centre has no space either for public meeting, art exhibitions or displays of planning requests. I trust the Council is not using those of us who are disabled as an excuse for profit-making sale of buildings in prime locations?
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