Get involved: send your pictures, video, news & views by texting ENFIELD NEWS to 80360, or email us
Squatters in Arnos Family Resource Centre battle to 'negotiate' with Enfield Borough Council
Squatters at the centre of an eviction battle with Enfield Borough Council are calling for more time to continue their community work.
The council failed to evict up to 15 members of the Occupy movement living in the Arnos Family Resource Centre in Bowes Road when the authority's barrister arrived late to the court hearing on Monday.
The political activists are now urging the authority to begin negotiations over a date to leave the former offices in Southgate to prevent the council “wasting” any more taxpayers’ money by dragging the dispute back into the courts.
Pedro Lima, who moved into the building two months ago from a former squat in Friern Barnet Library, said: “We are always willing to negotiate – we don’t want the council to waste taxpayers' money.
“We tried to say ‘look, we are not here to damage the buildings and give any trouble to the community or the police’, but as usual the council went straight away to the courts to waste people’s money.
“We just want to get a bit of time so we can do a bit of community work and campaign on some political issues.”
The council is in the process of selling the building, although it would not release information about the buyer, claiming the information is "commercially sensitive."
Mr Lima, who started squatting a year ago after moving to the UK from Portugal, was involved in last year's successful community campaign to reopen Friern Barnet library after Barnet Council planned to close it to save money.
The 36-year-old said the activists are now running workshops on art, technology and social media in the building, which is near Arnos Grove Tube station, and claims they are simply trying to “engage with the community” rather than cause trouble.
Although he admitted it is difficult to fully open the squat to the public for health and safety reasons, he added: “People are feeling the strain more and more as the cuts come in so I think it is really important to engage with people to make them more aware of what is going on with the economy.”
Mr Lima, who attended the hearing in Barnet County Court on Monday, said the activists are making use of the space to talk to people about how cuts to social services will affect the community.
Nonetheless, the council is still determined to evict the squatters from the building.
A statement from the authority said: "The fact is that an Enfield Council owned property has been broken into and illegally occupied and we are following the normal legal process to evict the people responsible.
"The building is being sold and contracts have been exchanged. Money raised from the sale will fund vital council services at a time when Enfield Council is experiencing significant spending cuts from central government.
"Enfield Council will always act to ensure vital council services are properly funded."