Occupy London activists have caught the establishment off guard and seized an empty building owned by the large banking organisation UBS and claimed protection under Section 6 of Criminal Law Act 1977.
The interconnected buildings near Liverpool Street, which are owned by the banking giant, have been empty for several years and access was gained by the protestors early on Friday morning.
The Guardian reports that within hours the activists had started to clean the building, up of damp and broken glass as well as declaring their presence with the use of giant drop banners hanging out of the windows.
The plan it seems is to use the building, which is now dubbed the ‘Bank of Ideas’, as a venue for debate and discussion as opposed to a residence. It is not therefore being touted as a replacement camp for Occupy London should they be successfully ejected from the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral.
Squatting is legal in England and Wales and, under the so called squatter’s rights, despite it normally being associated with homeless people trying to establish a place to live, the building they squat in can be used for any purpose they wish.
One of the activists, Sarah Layler, is quoted in the Guardian as saying "The Bank of Ideas will host a full events programme where people will be able to trade in creativity rather than cash. We will also make space available for those that have lost their nurseries, community centres and youth clubs to savage government spending cuts."
Whether you believe that squatting is a good or bad thing, that a bank is so awash with cash during these supposedly bad times for financial organisations that it can afford to leave a huge building in London empty for so long is testament to how broken the system really is.
UBS it would seem has no incentive to either utilise the building or sell it off quickly. Maybe a dose of Land Value Tax (LVT) would have got this land into proper use quickly.
UBS know they are there and will presumably take swift action to get them out. something they have to do to enforce their rights, especially if they also want to sell it. But they do have 10-12 years to do it in before they lose their rights to the squatters.