Protesters to scale down occupation of St Paul's


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The Independent Online

Occupy London protesters are ready to leave St Paul's early next year in exchange for a scaled-down presence outside the cathedral and a "symbolic tent" within.

The end of a saga that polarised the Church of England, and saw the hundreds campaigning against corporate greed championed and vilified in equal measure, began last night when protesters started debating the issue.

While the shape and timing of any withdrawal still needs to be ironed out in a meeting with the cathedral this week, there was "widespread consensus" on the move, a source within the site in the City of London said.

It comes as a High Court challenge to evict the 150 or so camped demonstrators begins today, with protesters believing that an exit on their own terms will cement goodwill for a movement that has resonated with many.

The source said: "There is widespread consensus that resources at the camp are stretched, and concerns about the long-term viability of the site. We are looking at restructuring and how best to use our other sites."

Any compromise would allow the Church to save face after a crisis which saw the cathedral close for the first time since the Blitz.

It would allow demonstrators, who have been at the site since 15 October, to claim a moral victory in their fight with the City of London Corporation (CoLC).

The CoLC said while it welcomed any move to vacate the site, it was still looking for the court case to clarify issues of highways and planning. Should the CoLC win, a special meeting of its planning committee on 30 December could set a date for eviction.

Naomi Colvin, of Occupy London, said the group had succeeded in stirring debate following multibillion-pound payouts to failing banks.

She said: "A lot of people here are working incredibly hard, and is it the best use of their time? St Paul's is an unbelievable location that has allowed us to talk to the Church of England. We want it to remain the headquarters of the movement and make it our embassy."