Last house falls for M11

Motorway sit-in protesters have met their Waterloo, writes Danny Penman
Click to follow
The Independent Online
The last house in the path of the M11 link road in East London fell into the hands of police and bailiffs yesterday after a six-hour battle with protesters.

More than 150 police, bailiffs and security guards pitted themselves against 60 protesters who had barricaded themselves into a derelict house to protest against the new road. The house had been completely gutted and walls and windows reinforced with wood and steel in anticipation of the siege.

When police arrived yesterday morning they had to battle through a quarter mile traffic jam. Spotters had warned the protesters that a convoy of 14 police vans was en route to evict them. They responded by setting up a road block made from rubbish, shopping trolleys and kitchen units.

The traffic quickly built up, giving the activists time to man their defences. They first pulled up a drawbridge which formed the only link to the three-storey house over a shallow moat. The staircase behind the door was then filled with tons of rubble, giving bailiffs little chance of entering.

Bailiffs were also faced with sheer 30ft boarded-up walls and windows. The pinnacle of their defences was the 30ft tower perched precariously atop the house. The bailiffs spent several hours trying to dig through the rubble-filled staircase and finally gained entry to the first floor only to find that the defenders had fled to the second floor and sealed themselves in. Another hour was wasted while the bailiffs attempted to reach the second floor.

Eventually a hydraulic digger was brought in to rip open a window. After the second floor of the house was taken the protesters fled to the roof and tower where about 10 chained their arms to steel hooks embedded in concrete as police and bailiffs scaled the back of the house.

Simultaneously two "cherry picking" platforms were brought in to pluck protesters from the rooftop. Generators and pneumatic drills were then brought up to cut free the protesters who had locked their arms to the steel loops. The tower was then quickly fell to the bailiffs.

The protesters regard Monstonia, as the house was dubbed because of its creepy appearance, as a bonus. The main battle to stop the road was fought at Claremont Road last November. But the anti-M11 campaigners retook the house, which sits on a stretch of wasteland about a mile from Claremont Road, in April following a security lapse.

The Department of Transport was granted a possession order in May.

The Metropolitan Police pronounced the eviction a success. "There's been no animosity at all and it's all gone according to plan with everything happening the way we expected it," said a spokeswoman.

The protesters vowed to continue their campaign against the road by occupying stretches of the construction site and chaining themselves to machinery.

"Now we can go on the offensive because we have nothing left to defend," one protester said.