Pedestrian crossing may spell the end for Westminster peace camp
Previous attempts to evict the camp have failed because it has not been deemed to be causing an obstruction
Friday 03 June 2011
Brian Haw's anti-war protest camp has dominated Parliament Square for 10 years, cut off from curious pedestrians by the busy lanes of traffic that surround it.
Now Westminster City Council wants to change that by installing a pedestrian crossing. Although they claim their intention is merely to make it easier for Londoners and tourists to access the square, its creation is also likely to result in the eviction of Mr Haw and the protesters gathered around him.
In March, a High Court ruling obtained by the Mayor of London Boris Johnson forced Mr Haw to move his camp from the grass on the square to the pavement.
Now the council, which is responsible for the pavement, is seeking to repeal his right to sleep there too – by establishing that he and his fellow protesters are "proving an obstruction to the footway" and acting as a "hindrance" to pedestrians. Mr Haw, a carpenter from Worcestershire, set up his camp in 2001 and remained there until September last year, when he was flown to Germany to be treated for lung cancer.
Martin Lowe, Westminster City Council's city commissioner of transportation, said they had previously been unable to win the case against Mr Haw because there had never been enough people on the square to validate any obstruction.
He said he hoped the crossing would encourage more people to walk on the square's surrounding footpaths, where the protesters' tents are situated. But he denied that the primary motive behind the plan was to convince the court to remove the activists.
"The main reason for wanting a crossing is simply to showcase the centre of the square, which is lovely.
"People want to visit the buildings around Parliament Square, visit the Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela statues, and simply chill out – it is a nice place to be. We ought to be giving people a good safe opportunity to get to and from the central space."
Councillor Colin Barrow, the leader of Westminster Council, was more direct. He said: "For too long this camp has dominated the square which should be available for all.
"We of course support the right to protest and will continue to do so, but the camping out for years on end has turned the area into an eyesore. I think they have made their point and now is time to reclaim the square for all Londoners and visitors once and for all.
"By installing this crossing we believe we are helping to achieve that and providing a safe way to access the square rather than a sprint across several lanes of traffic."
Babs Tucker, who has spent the last five years living in one of the tents on Parliament Square, said she thought there was probably an "ulterior motive" behind the plans, which she described as "childish". "The camp has been here 10 years and now they want to crack on about a pedestrian crossing," she said. "It is so ridiculous, but no matter what they try and do, we are going to stand our ground."
- 1 BBC told new political editor must be 'impartial' with Nick Robinson reportedly stepping down
- 2 Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
- 3 The map showing the most dangerous tourist destinations in Europe, according to the Foreign Office
- 4 The biggest first date turnoff has been revealed
- 5 German man found living with 300 rats in tiny apartment
BBC told new political editor must be 'impartial' with Nick Robinson reportedly stepping down
Humans of New York image of crying gay teen receives best response yet from Ellen DeGeneres
Isis propaganda video shows 25 Syrian soldiers executed by teenage militants in Palmyra
Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Budget 2015: George Osborne to axe subsidies for higher income earners in social housing
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...
£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...
£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...
£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...