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

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."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'