Protesters who squatted in a Birmingham pub to protest at lack of affordable social housing in the city have been evicted and ordered to pay nearly £4,000 legal costs to the owner of the site.
The Justice Not Crisis group occupied the Firebird pub, on Bellevue, off Bristol Road, Edgbaston, in November as part of their campaign to highlight the lack of affordable social housing in Birmingham.
But, at a hearing in Birmingham County Court, the owner, Moseley-based JN (Warwick) Ltd, successfully argued for an eviction order so the group must leave immediately.
The pub had become a makeshift residence for six homeless people who received a temporary reprieve on January 22 when an initial hearing was adjourned after court papers were not served correctly.
The defeat did not come as a shock to those in charge of the protest movement.
Justice Not Crisis organiser Lee Moore said: “We are not surprised that the eviction has been granted. It is one of the only options available to the court.
“We do, however, feel the judge ignored important factors. The main one being that we were not aware of the court date until one hour before the hearing.
“As such we will appeal the decision to a higher court.”
But Mr Moore felt the costs incurred had been worthwhile. It is a high price to pay to house six homeless people for 16 weeks, but worth every penny. Our next move will be to resist the bailiff’s occupation.”
The group has vowed that even when they are evicted from the Firebird their fight will continue. One of the protestors, Stephen Gwynne, said they had already earmarked another site to occupy.
“For obvious reasons we can’t say where it is, but it is land or a property which we think should be handed over for social housing,” he said.
The group had previously protested by creating a tented city on unused council-owned land off the Pershore Road demanding that more should be done by Birmingham City Council to build more affordable accommodation for the homeless.
Earlier this month, housing chief John Lines announced plans to build up to 500 new homes a year and plans have been drawn up for a Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust which will run and manage the project.
This will allow the council to evade Housing Revenue Account regulations which see a large proportion of the city’s council house rent revenue – £58million this year – handed to the Government for redistribution.
Speaking at the time of the annoucement Coun Lines (Con, Bartley Green) said: “We are rolling back the years. We need hundreds, if not thousands of new homes, to satisfy the demand and needs of our citizens.
“A century ago Birmingham led the way in council housing and we will do so again.”
Nicklas Hunt, director of JN (Warwick) Ltd, declined to comment.
"The protestors are seeking justification for their anti-social, pseudo-anarchic and selfish actions."
"We believe passionately in the cause for more socially rented homes in Birmingham and the plight of the homeless, that's why we are squatting."
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* Reporter Jonny Greatrex visited the squatters in November. Read the story here >