All posts by Tony Gosling

Beginning his working life in the aviation industry and trained by the BBC, Tony Gosling is a British land rights activist, historian & investigative radio journalist. Over the last 20 years he has been exposing the secret power of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) and élite Bilderberg Conferences where the dark forces of corporations, media, banks and royalty conspire to accumulate wealth and power through extortion and war. Tony has spent much of his life too advocating solutions which heal the wealth divide, such as free housing for all and a press which reflects the concerns of ordinary people rather than attempting to lead opinion, sensationalise or dumb-down. Tony tweets at @TonyGosling. Tune in to his Friday politics show at BCfm.

Poole council lied, DID issue tent eviction notice, despite initial claims it was ‘fraudulent’

AN EVICTION notice served to a homeless man after he pitched a tent up at an empty shop doorway WAS served by the Borough of Poole despite initial off-the-record claims the notice could have been fraudulent.

The Borough of Poole had first claimed that the notice had not come from the council until they were sent a photograph of the document, provided by the Daily Echo.

Even until Friday afternoon council staff were unwilling to confirm or deny they had issued the enforcement notice, arguing that an urgent investigation had been launched into the matter.

It was suggested that an unknown person working for the authority had helped to create the eviction notice, possibly by releasing the Borough of Poole’s logo.

A day later, it was confirmed that the tent had been served a notice by an officer working for the Borough of Poole after the Daily Echo pushed the council to confirm its actions.

“A notice would be an extreme measure,” a spokesman confirmed, adding that it was not in line with the council’s normal procedure.

“Borough of Poole works in conjunction with Bournemouth and Poole Rough Sleepers Team to offer services all rough sleepers in the Poole area,” the spokesman said.

“These services include physical and mental health advice, accommodation, and support.

“There are a small number of rough sleepers who persistently refuse the services offered and continue to put themselves and others at risk.

“The notice on the tent was served by a Borough of Poole officer following a request from Bournemouth and Poole Rough Sleepers Team, who had received a number of complaints from members of the public.

“These notices are rarely used and we will be reviewing our procedures to see if any lessons can be learned from this incident.”

The council had also claimed that it was a “complicated” issue as the tent had been pitched on private property, despite the eviction notice claiming the reason for the enforcement was because “camping is not permitted on Borough of Poole land”.

The Bournemouth and Poole Rough Sleepers team refused to comment on the matter.

Resident Karl Blanch contacted the Daily Echo to voice his outrage at the eviction notice after reading Friday’s story.

“Maybe this man doesn’t want to go into accommodation. Maybe he has a dog,” he said.

“Hopefully he will go into accommodation and everything will have a happy ending. But a lot of people don’t have a choice about what happens to them.

“This has really stuck in my mind.”

The tent had been removed from the shop entrance when the Daily Echo returned to Poole High Street on Saturday.

Sally Harvey, of the AOK Rucksack Appeal, said council staff were probably “doing the best they can” under the circumstances.

“They haven’t got the money with all the government cutbacks but they are trying very, very hard,” she said.

“Homeless people should not be evicted but they do need places to go. The ones who sleep in tents tend to have dogs and can’t be housed. It’s a very difficult situation.”

Squatters’ Handbook 14th edition (2016) – a 21st century entrepreneur’s bible

Fully up-to-date as of late 2016 and including everything you need to know to stay as long and as comfortably as possible in your new home. Squatting is a 21st century growth industry as The City encourages house price inflation and increasing use of ‘property’ as ‘investment’ for those on the QE ‘funny money’.

Chapters on: squatters’ rights; property guardians; first steps; finding a place; securing the place; dealing with alarms; proving it’s not residential; visitors to your place; dealing with the police; immigration; dealing with security guards; a note on filming; dealing with ‘owners’; fixing your place up; electricity; defending your home in court; enforcement of possession orders; enforcement of possession orders when places have been previously squatted; railway property; living in vehicles; gypsies and travellers; debt collectors; injunctions; organising; some squatting history; glossary of jargon and terms; further resources

Available from Bookfinder.com and Amazon.co.uk

‘Squat Belgravia’ target Qatari general’s £17m townhouse hours after being evicted from £15m mansion

‘Squat Belgravia’ target Qatari general’s £17m townhouse hours after being evicted from £15m mansion

http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/squatters-target-qatari-general-s-17m-townhouse-hours-after-being-evicted-from-another-mansion-a3456346.html

mansion.jpgThe occupied mansion in Grosvenor Gardens PA

Squatters who occupied a Belgravia mansion hours after being evicted from another property now plan to use a neighbouring house owned by a Qatari ex-general as a “community centre”.

Activists from the Autonomous Nation of Anarchist Libertarians were ejected from a £15 million base in nearby Eaton Place yesterday by police and bailiffs.

Within hours they were bringing bedding and furniture into a seven-storey property once owned by the Victorian archaelogist Augustus Pitt-River. It  has since been converted into offices.

The group also intend to use the empty mansion next door on Grosvenor Gardens as a community centre for talks, film screenings and events.

squatters-.jpg
Squatters enter the £17m mansion (PA)

According to Land Registry documents, that house — which has 18 bedrooms — was bought for £17 million in cash on June 22 by the former head of Qatar’s armed forces. Hamad bin Ali Al Attiyah supplied Libyan rebels in the 2011 civil war and is now president of Qatari football team El Jaish. The group said they were not intending to sleep in his house as it is a residential property and they would be quickly evicted. Tom Fox, 23, said the group had spotted the Pitt-Rivers house before moving into the Eaton Square address 10 days ago.

He said: “We thought we’d take Eaton Square first because it would be a better starting point but this one turns out to be worth much more. We will get into Buckingham Palace at this rate.

“We’re not here to cause damage and the courts know that.”

The group says it has taken in homeless people to provide them with food and accommodation during the cold winter nights. Mr Fox said: “We have to be a little bit selective about who we help because we don’t want the place turned into a crack den. We’re a family and everyone has to work together.”

‘The housing crisis has spread to everybody’, says former boss of Shelter

Isabelle Fraser – 8 JANUARY 2017

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/property/house-prices/robbthe-housing-crisis-has-spread-everybody/

From the roof of the east London office of the charity Shelter, you can see the remnants of over a century of the capital’s housing policy. Old terraced houses, turn of the century estates, oppressive Sixties tower blocks, the Modernist grandeur of the Barbican, and the knot of skyscrapers in the City beyond.

Years before he became chief executive of Shelter, Campbell Robb lived in a Peabody estate, much like the one below. Well-built and available at affordable rents, these kinds of homes are increasingly unavailable for London’s burgeoning Generation Rent, which PwC estimated that will increase from 40pc in 2000, to 60pc in 2025.

Downstairs in Robb’s office, there is a poster with ‘Enough is Enough!’ written in big red letters, commissioned for the charity’s 50th anniversary this year. Shelter started life campaigning for the millions of ‘hidden homeless’, who lived in slums; it was the same year as Kathy Come Home, Ken Loach’s famous film about homelessness.

It is now a powerful voice calling for ways to help solve the housing crisis, and ameliorate conditions those renting privately or struggling to find anywhere to live. Recent victories include the Government’s announcement in the Autumn Statement to ban letting fees for tenants; the charity continues to campaign for long tenancies for renters and runs a helpline for homeless people.

Now, Robb is leaving his post after seven years in the top job to head up the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. “One of the biggest challenges has been…to get enough people to recognise this was a housing crisis that was beginning to impact every bit of society. People thought it only affected certain kinds of people, the very poorest in slum conditions that Shelter was founded on,” he says. Since he joined, housing has made it way up the public’s priority list. When he arrived in January 2010, housing came in 18th on Ipsos Mori’s survey which finds the “single biggest issue” for Britons. In November 2016, it came fifth.

“The reason for that is affordability,” he says. The housing crisis “has spread to everywhere. It’s not just poor people, or those who are just managing, it’s right up there.” The average house price in the UK has climbed 29.4pc in the last seven years; in London it has soared by 69.6pc, far ahead of wage increases.

As a result, it has become a hot potato. “It’s a political issue that has become real for a lot of people across the country. Not just in Labour seats, but Conservative MPs have people in their constituencies who are saying my children can’t afford to buy,” he says. “We have a group of people who are in their 50s and 60s for the first generation since the Second World War, looking at their children’s housing prospects, and they are worse than their own.”

Not only is there political pressure coming from voters, but also from big companies.

Deloitte and KPMG both bought flats in the capital for their graduates to live in, and Shelter has teamed up with companies such as Starbucks to introduce a rental deposit scheme which workers can pay back, interest free.

It could have been even worse, he says. “In the last seven years, if interest rates had gone up by 2 or 3pc you would have seen a raft of repossessions like those in the 80s. You would have seen a crisis beyond what we already have. So in some ways housing policy has been lucky.”

This affordability crisis has been compounded by a “failure of certain policies”, he says, as well as the financial crisis and the austerity that followed. The previous governments, including New Labour and the coalition, all failed to build enough and put little focus on the supply side, he argues. They all “believed the way to solve the housing crisis was on the home ownership and on demand side, to effectively make money available cheaply through Help to Buy-type products, [which enables first-time buyers to purchase a home with a 5pc deposit] and less so in direct investment in house building.” Help to Buy was a crucial policy after the downturn, designed to get house builders moving again by stimulating demand. But that policy has continued, even while house builders are posting record profits once again.

There’s a problem with this model of solving the housing crisis, says Robb: “it’s broken”. “With the death of public housing and local authorities, the private house builders have had to carry that weight and they can’t,” he says. Part of the problem is due to the land market; the high cost of land forces developers to keep upping prices and making homes smaller. “You can’t criticise them for doing what they were set up to do, they are there to maximise profit for their shareholders,” he says. “That doesn’t necessarily translate into the best housing policy for Britain. That’s why you need more small builders, more land available – public and private – and you need public building”.

With the new Government, the rhetoric has changed noticeably. “This is a government that’s got more sense of a failed housing market than any of the previous ones,” he says. It has become more interventionist, even pinching policies from the Labour party’s manifesto, as was the case with banning letting fees. There is less focus on the importance of home ownership, and more money for affordable homes and talk of other types of housing, such as the private rental sector. Now, after seven years, the “house building budget has come back to what it was in 2008,” he says. “So we have seen a very big cycle”.

Part of the policy shift is a recognition that the market has changed remarkably during that time. “Over those seven years there was a massive growth of people in the rental sector, and the Government is finally catching up with the need to regulate that.”

Another change is the recognition of housing being a form of infrastructure, which Robb describes as “a big step”. “It’s never done that – it’s always separated it from roads and transport. They seem to finally recognise that investment will be an improvement to the economy like other types of infrastructure.”

Small movements and policy tweaks such as these are key to making up the deficit of homes that must be built, rather than big, sweeping changes, he argues. “It would be good if the Government had lots of different small things [planned for the upcoming housing white paper] because actually with a bit of investment, and a bit of policy and political will you can make this happen.”

Where others may see as an insurmountable challenge, Robb is hopeful about ending the housing crisis. “I am optimistic that it can be fixed. Having waited seven years, I have a government whose public pronouncements… are more nuanced and thought through than many of the previous governments’,” he says. With a promising Autumn Statement which promised billions to affordable housing, and a housing white paper on the way, “they may be swallows that don’t make a full spring but we can begin to hope that if they follow those things through, we might begin to see a start… I’m optimistic until I’m proven otherwise.”

Haringey lives torn apart and assets lost: this is what a Labour privatisation would mean

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/19/lives-torn-apart-assets-labour-privatisation-north-london-haringey
The battle under way in the capital should trouble us all. Proponents call it innovation, but I say it’s an assault on the poor

Aditya Chakrabortty Thursday 19 January 2017

A battle broke out on Tuesday in one of the scruffier parts of north London. It didn’t look much: a few dozen placard wavers outside Haringey civic centre, and a restive public heckling councillors as they debated big plans for their future. But this is a battle that concerns all of us. At its heart is a programme that is among the most audacious I’ve ever seen. Haringey wants to privatise huge swaths of public property: family homes, school buildings, its biggest library. All of it will be stuck in a private fund worth £2bn.

It comes with huge risks. It will demolish precious social housing, turf out families and rip apart communities. It will hand democratic control to a massive private entity. The 20-year plan is ‘unprecedented’, agreed backbench councillors. They voted to slam on the brakes. But if they’re ignored and the plan goes through, it will form a blueprint for an altered capital. London will lurch closer towards becoming a playground for speculators, a dormitory for professionals, and off-limits both to the working class and to public dissent.

This may be the first you’ve heard of it – the Haringey development vehicle has scored barely a mention outside the local and trade press. Odd, given how large it is, and how vital to council leader Claire Kober, who is also chair of the London Councils group.

Having grown up nearby, in Edmonton, I know the problems that fester in parts of Haringey

Kober claims that a joint venture with a mega-developer is the sure route to 5,000 new houses and a sparkling town centre. To which the obvious question is: homes for whom? I’ve been through the paperwork, had dozens of conversations with councillors and locals, and put a series of questions to the council. And it’s clear they won’t be for the 8,000 Haringey families on the waiting list for a council house. If anything, this plan will add to the number who are homeless. Not by accident but by design: the plans are explicit about making accommodation in this London borough even more expensive.

Why would a Labour council even think of doing this to its own voters? Because the hyper-ambitious leadership is still gripped by zombie Blairism and its mania for ‘innovation’. And because Kober and her allies appear to believe the best way to relieve an area of poverty is to kick out the poor people who live there. Or, as they call it, creating ‘mixed and balanced communities’.

Having grown up next door, in Edmonton, I know the problems that fester in parts of Haringey: the death of light industry leading to a jobs drought, and some of the worst deprivation in Britain. There’s a reason Tottenham was ground zero for the 2011 riots. Add to that the impossible municipal maths of delivering year upon year of Westminster-mandated spending cuts while trying not to drown in a historic housing crisis. So many needs, so little money.

Faced with these intractables, Kober and her circle have decided the way to fix Tottenham is to turn it into somewhere else. So they hire Nick Walkley, who at Barnet handed nearly everything his council did to the giant outsourcing company Capita. They throw public money at starchitects to get them to set up a branch in the borough. They blow the annual running cost of a daycare centre on a redesign of the council logo. ‘Haringey London’, it now reads, with an undisguised spatial neediness. This is the kind of regeneration mindset that can’t see a greasy spoon without wishing it were a Starbucks.

And Kober gets cosy with the property industry. Developers spend tens of thousands bringing her and the team over to property fairs in Cannes. And there, among the yachts, the council announces the shortlist of private-sector partners for this development vehicle.

A gorgeous art deco town hall is flogged to Hong Kong investors to turn into a boutique hotel and luxury apartments – with just four affordable homes. Locals are furious, and Labour councillors rebel. The chief whip, Adam Jogee, ticks off colleagues for their ‘entirely unacceptable behaviour’. Jogee, by the way, works for a lobbying firm that represents two of the three corporates on that development vehicle shortlist. That same lobbyist dined Kober and her heads of finance and housing no fewer than 13 times.

Analysis The radical model fighting the housing crisis: property prices based on income

Community land trusts battle gentrification by linking house prices to local wages rather than the market rate. But can this growing movement for ‘permanently affordable’ homes really ease Britain’s housing crisis?

I’m not accusing these politicians of corruption. But they seem to have such a corroded sense of ethics that they can no longer discern inappropriate behaviour.

Then they start on this new development vehicle. The council’s business case for it is too important a job for any local official: a property consultancy is hired in. As one might expect of policy written by the real-estate industry, the document contains hardly a word on social housing. Indeed, the council tells me it has no targets for building social housing through this new venture, just ‘affordable’ units. And as everyone knows, ‘affordable’ means its opposite.

As for the joint venture, only a few councils have ever tried them. That business case doesn’t mention the failures, such as in Croydon, south London. It doesn’t mention how the venture in Tunbridge Wells collapsed, leaving locals to pick up the tab.

Other things not mentioned: democratic accountability and the rights of council tenants. Whole estates will be razed to the ground, and the council confirmed to me that the people who live there are not guaranteed the right to return on the same tenancy contracts.

Not that the tenants know any of this. The first council estate to go into the vehicle will be Northumberland Park: close to the Lea Valley waterways and blessed with good transport links into central London. Such attributes make it far too good for mere council tenants, of course. But last week, when I asked residents if they knew their homes were set to be demolished, some stared at me in wonder.

Haringey’s own consultants admit: ‘There is very little sound knowledge of the proposed regeneration in Northumberland Park.’

I keep thinking about one couple: Sirajul and Moriam Islam. He drives a school bus, she’s an assistant in a nearby special-needs school. They bought their flat from the council 30 years ago and have spent years doing it up. Now they’ll be turfed out with a sum that will not buy them another flat in the area. They talk about seeing out their final years in a strange new town, among people they don’t know. ‘Like living in a prison,’ sighs Moriam. Then Sirajul tells me about his boy who’s training to be a doctor, and his girl who’s about to start as a teacher. ‘I always told them: ‘We might be working-class, but you can do anything.’ The mixed and balanced and ‘aspirational’ community Kober and co are seeking is right under their noses, if only they’d see it.

This has been the story of central London’s transformation over the past decade: clearing of the commons, dismissal of the little people, deference towards developers and the replacement of reality with property-marketing fiction. If Haringey implements these proposals then outer London is next. Which is why I believe this battle is one that the rest of us can’t sit out. Enough of forced gentrification. Enough of privatising public assets. Enough of that rancid New Labour contempt for its own voters. This has to stop.

Thousands sign petition for royal family to pay £369m Buckingham Palace repairs themselves

 – 
Thousands sign petition for royal family to pay for Buckingham Palace repairs themselves
Buckingham Palace is set for £370 million renovations 

Almost 15,000 people have signed a petition calling for the royal family to pay for the £369 million repairs to Buckingham Palace.

Yesterday it was announced that the royal residence is to undergo a major 10-year refurbishment.

The hefty bill will come from a 66% increase in the Sovereign Grant – the funding for the monarchy’s official duties – for the 10-year period, with the total works estimated to cost £369 million.

But thousands of people think the royals should foot the bill for Her Maj’s luxury pad.

A petition suggesting The Crown and its estates should pay for the renovations has received just shy of 15,000 backers at time of publishing.

Many think the royals should pay for their own repairs (Picture: Getty)
Many think the royals should pay for their own repairs

Mark Johnson, who set up the petition, said: ‘There is a national housing crisis, the NHS is in crisis, austerity is forcing cuts in many front line services.

‘Now the Royals expect us to dig deeper to refurbish Buckingham Palace. The Crown’s wealth is inestimable. This is, in a word, outrageous.’

It is estimated that the benefits of the upgrade, including longer summer opening hours, more private tours and savings due to the improvements, could be around £3.4 million each year.The refit, described by officials as ‘essential’, will include replacing boilers, and miles of cables, pipes and electrical wires when it begins in April next year, subject to Parliamentary approval.

It is also forecast that the work, taken wing by wing, beginning with the front of the London landmark after essential works are completed in the first two years, will reduce the palace’s carbon footprint by 40% in the future.

The Queen spends around a third of the year hosting garden parties, receptions, investitures and other events at her official home.

The work needed reflects the age of the building, which was first used as a royal palace by Queen Victoria and has not been decorated since 1952, the year the Queen ascended the throne.

The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales are ‘completely supportive’ of the refit, officials said.

When the work is finished in 2027, the grant is expected to return to its current level of 15%.

To: The Chancellor – Make Royals Pay for Palace Renovation

Campaign created by Mark Johnson

Buckingham Palace is about to be given a £369m refurbishment. Tax payers are paying for it. The Crown and its estates should be made to fund its own renovations.

Why is this important?

There is a national housing crisis, the NHS is in crisis, austerity is forcing cuts in many front line services. Now the Royals expect us to dig deeper to refurbish Buckingham Palace. The Crown’s wealth is inestimable. This is, in a word, outrageous.

Kevin Cahill: “Queen Elizabeth II is the largest landowner on Earth.”

Queen Elizabeth II, head of state of the United Kingdom and of 31 other states and territories, is the legal owner of about 6,600 million acres of land, one sixth of the earth’s non ocean surface.

She is the only person on Earth who owns whole countries, and who owns countries that are not her own domestic territory. This land ownership is separate from her role as head of state and is different from other monarchies where no such claim is made – Norway, Belgium, Denmark etc.

The value of her land holding. £17,600,000,000,000 (approx).

This makes her the richest individual on earth. However, there is no way easily to value her real estate. There is no current market in the land of entire countries. At a rough estimate of $5,000 an acre, and based on the sale of Alaska to the USA by the Tsar, and of Louisiana to the USA by France, the Queen’s land holding is worth a notional $33,000,000,000,000 (Thirty three trillion dollars or about £17,600,000,000,000). Her holding is based on the laws of the countries she owns and her land title is valid in all the countries she owns. Her main holdings are Canada, the 2nd largest country on earth, with 2,467 million acres, Australia, the 7th largest country on earth with 1,900 million acres, the Papua New Guinea with114 million acres, New Zealand with 66 million acres and the UK with 60 million acres.

She is the world’s largest landowner by a significant margin. The next largest landowner is the Russian state, with an overall ownership of 4,219 million acres, and a direct ownership comparable with the Queen’s land holding of 2,447 million acres. The 3rd largest landowner is the Chinese state, which claims all of Chinese land, about 2,365 million acres. The 4th largest landowner on earth is the Federal Government of the United States, which owns about one third of the land of the USA, 760 million acres. The fifth largest landowner on earth is the King of Saudi Arabia with 553 million acres

Largest five personal landowners on EarTh
Queen Elizabeth II 6,600 million acres
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia 553 million acres
King Bhumibol of Thailand 126 million acres
King Mohammed IV of Morocco 113 million acres
Sultan Quaboos of Oman 76 million acres

 

NEW: Squatting In Britain 1945-1955 Housing, Politics and Direct Action by Don Watson

Britain in 1946 witnessed extraordinary episodes of direct action. Tens of thousands of families walked into empty army camps and took them over as places to live. A nationwide squatters’ movement was born and it was the first challenge to the 1945 Labour government to come ‘from below’.
The book examines how these squatters built communities and campaigned for improvements; how local and national government reacted; the spread of squatting to empty mansions and hotels, and the roles of political activists. Further, it discusses what these events reveal about the attitude of the 1945 government to popular initiatives.
This book describes how those most affected by inadequate housing conditions and shortages responded to them and how their actions helped to shape policies and events. It examines and records something summed up in the recollection of one of the organisers of the London hotel squats of 1946:
“The thing I’ll never forget is that if I’d ever had doubts about the problems of working people taking on and managing their own affairs, I lost them forever during this squatting thing. Because without any hassle, fuss, argument, they found what they could do, and collectively decided that it should be done, and then went off and did it.”

PRAISE for Squatting in Britain:
“The definitive account of these events and, very usefully, the aftermath. The judgements are carefully made and convincingly argued.”
Emeritus Professor James Hinton, University of Warwick
ISBN 978-0-85036-728-7
Paperback approx. 264 pages
Price:£16.99

VARIOUS PRICES FOR A COPY OF: “Squatting in Britain 1945-1955: Housing, Politics and Direct Action” by Don Watson () n

Tragedy of unknown homeless man found ‘frozen to death’ in city centre on coldest night of the year

Police were called to a car park entrance on Wednesday night after a local drinking in the nearby boozer discovered the man

BYJAMES CARTLEDGE & SCARLET HOWES – 13:21, 1 DEC 2016
NEWS

Video thumbnail, Tragic last moments of homeless man who died in the cold

Police were called to a car park entrance in Station Road at 11.30pm Wednesday after a local drinking in the nearby boozer discovered the man.

It’s understood the body, found opposite the Victoria pub in John Bright Street, is that of a 30-year-old male of no fixed address.

He was pronounced dead at the scene.

West Midlands Police have said they do not believe the circumstances to be suspicious but it was suggested the man’s death was connected to drugs, according to Birmingham Mail .

Last night saw Britain hit with the lowest November temperatures in six years, as temperatures plunged to -6C.

Hundreds of Birmingham Mail readers left comments on the paper’s Facebook page, with many telling of their ‘heartbreak’ at what appears to be a growing homelessness problem.

Leah Martin said: “It’s ridiculous how many more men and women have to die for something to be done.”

Laurence Mahony said: “Disgusting in this day and age NOONE should be homeless. NOONE. We are a rich country who don’t do enough for our citizens. Councils and Government should hold their head down in shame.”

The man’s body was found hours before shocking new figures revealed almost 10,000 people were homeless in Birmingham .

William Everard: The forgotten man of the English Revolution

“Propriety and single interest divides the people of a land and the whole world into parties and is the cause of all wars and bloodshed and contention everywhere” (Gerrard Winstanley, William Everard and thirteen others 1649.) 

The collapse of central authority during the English Civil Wars saw the rise of radical thinkers and reformers who wanted to refashion the state. The Levellers, Diggers, Ranters, Fifth Monarchists, and Muggletonians were all perceived as a threat to what was left of the establishment.

The most dangerous, of course, were the Levellers, with mass support in the army and among the radical pamphleteers. Another group that has resonated down the centuries are the Diggers, and in particular their leader Gerard Winstanley. The historian Christopher Hill depicted the Diggers in the 1960s as a proto-communist movement crushed by a capitalist state. There is even an annual Diggers Festival held in Wigan. Alongside Winstanley, but almost forgotten, as instigator and leader of the Diggers was William Everard (1602 – c1651).

Everard is a central character in The Last Roundhead series, but there is little known about the man himself. Indeed, he is sometimes confused with another agitator called Robert Everard (both in contemporary sources and by historians) and Christopher Hill even proposed that the two were one and the same. 

Everard was baptised in St Giles parish Reading on May 9th 1602 to a poor Berkshire family. Whilst the family were not wealthy enough to be assessed for parliamentary subsidies (and thus exist in the historical record) Everard next appears on 14th August 1616 in the Apprentice Binding Book of the Merchant Taylors Company as a new apprentice to one Robert Miller. He is recorded as: William Everad, son of William Everad, yeoman of Reading, Berkshire.

It is possible that it was in the Taylors that Everard first made the acquaintance of Gerrard Winstanley, who was a freeman of the guild at the same time, but Everard did not complete his training and disappears from the historical record during the 1620s and 30s.

As England stumbled towards civil war in the Spring of 1642, Everard took the Protestation Oath in St Lawrence, Reading: “to live and die for the true Protestant religion, the liberties and rights of subjects and the privilege of Parliaments.” The oath was an anti-catholic covenant whipped up by press hysteria reporting dubious atrocities in Ireland.

With the outbreak of the Civil War in the Summer of 1642, Everard joined Samuel Luke’s scouts and was active throughout Berkshire in 1643, but he then again disappears from the record. Some have speculated that he was captured and imprisoned between 1643-46 but nothing concrete is known. (I do provide an explanation for this in my series, but it’s a few books down the line – and entirely fictional.)

By 1647, Everard was in the New Model Army and beginning his career as an agitator. In May, he signed a petition voicing the army’s grievances; he was then implicated in a plot to kill the King and imprisoned in Windsor. In December 1647, whilst awaiting his court martial, he petitioned Thomas Fairfax – the commander of the New Model Army – against his unfair imprisonment. It was to no avail, and he was cashiered out of the army in January 1648.

After his discharge from the army, Everard seems to have suffered an emotional and spiritual crisis. He visited the Baptist Samuel Fisher at some point in 1648 in Kent. Fisher, writing in 1653, claimed Everard had taken the name Chamberlain, claiming to be ‘in the secret chambers of the most high’. Everard also denounced infant baptism and said he was ‘sent from God.’Fisher was unimpressed, calling him ‘strange,’ with ‘uncouth deportment,’ and ‘blasphemous pratings’.

Everard was arrested in Kingston, Surrey and imprisoned accused of holding ‘blasphemous opinions’ denying God, Christ, Scriptures, and prayer. Gerard Winstanley defended him in October 1648 in the pamphlet Truth Lifting up its Head above Scandals declaring Everard‘innocent of these slanders’ but he continued to cause the authorities concern. On 6 March 1649 he was charged with a disturbance of the peace at a church service at Staines, where he threatened the minister with a hedging bill shouting: ‘come down thou sonne of perdition, come down’. A fellow Digger – John Barker – stood bail for him.

In mid-February 1649 at Walton on Thames, Everard is believed to be one of six soldiers who disturbed the end of a church service claiming to have received visions from God, and to deliver their message abolishing the Sabbath, tithes, magistrates, and ministers, and even the Bible – which one soldier then burned a copy of in the churchyard. They really were the Sex Pistols of the English Reformation! Professor Claire Jowitt has done some wonderful research showing clear evidence of mystical Judaism in his ideas and spirituality at this point – and that of many of the other radical groups and individuals bouncing around the republic.

In  April 1649, the first Digger commune was established on the common land near St George’s Hill in Weybridge; Winstanley later claiming that he heard the words: ‘Worke together. Eat bread together’ while in a trance. The commune sparked immediate concern amongst local landowners that their enclosures would be pulled down, with one writing “It is feared they have some design in hand.”

Winstanley and Everard and thirteen other Digger leaders released the pamphlet The True Levellers Standard Advanced in response. Thomas Fairfax – who must have already known Everard by this point – interviewed him and Winstanley at the urging of the local landowners on 20th April 1649.

Everard and Winstanley refused point blank to remove their hats in front of Fairfax, and it was Everard who acted as the group’s spokesman with the general, declaring that he: ‘was of the race of Jews; that all the liberties of the people were lost by the coming in of William the Conqueror, and that ever since, the people of God had lived under tyranny and oppression worse than that of our forefathers under the Egyptians.’ He justified the Digger actions by claiming a vision had told him. ‘Arise and dig, and plow the Earth and receive the fruits thereof.’

Despite their obvious sedition, Fairfax decided that the Diggers were essentially harmless rather than revolutionary, and told the local landowners to take it to the courts. By now Everard’s reputation had been shredded in the newsbooks and pamphlets. He was accused of being ‘a madd man’ and claimed that he ‘termeth himself a prophett’

The Diggers abandoned St George’s Hill in August 1649 after being accused of being Ranters –  a sexually liberated radical sect proscribed under the republic – and losing an ensuing court case. Everard seems to  have already left the movement by this point. There were reports in the national press that he was involved in the army mutiny in Oxfordshire in May 1649, but this is now believed to be a case of mistaken identity with the agitator Robert Everard.

In August 1649 Everard appeared in Bradfield, Berkshire, where John Pordage was the rector. Pordage claimed Everard first appeared to him in the form of ‘a spirit’, but it is likely that the two were already associated through local Berkshire connections. A year later Everard certainly appeared in the flesh, disguised as a harvest worker, sparking havoc in Bradfield. On Sunday, 1 September, a thirteen-year-old boy called William Snelling recited mysterious verses proclaiming ‘the great Jehova’ probably at Everard’s instigation. A week later, Pordage went into a trance during a church service running about and ‘bellowing like a bull.’ It was believed that Everard, Pordage, and a local self-proclaimed prophet called Tawny were all involved, but most people blamed Everard as a ‘man suspected to be a Sorcerer or Witch’, and the ‘malefic presence in the parish’.

 Shortly after this, at the end of September 1650, Everard was seen in a ‘frantick posture’ in London and the authorities once again arrested him at the start of October. This time it was decided that his visions were feigned and he was sent to Bridewell Prison as a charlatan on the orders of the Lord Mayor. His wife deperately tried to have him commited to Bedlam, but was unable initially to find the money to have him moved. He was still described as being ‘distracted’, and in the punishment book for Bridewel and Bethlem Hospital in December 1650: ‘many of Ranting Everard’s party are lunatick, and exceedingly distracted; they talk very high against the Parliament, and this present Government; for which some of them have received the lash’

By March 1651, it was realised that his mental breakdown was anything but feigned, and at Bridewell he was a danger to himself and others. He was finally moved to Bedlam on March 19th, but frustratingly yet again disappears from the historical record. He does not seem to have died in the hospital as no burial is recorded, and no release is mentioned. However, a William Everard was buried at St Katherine Cree, London, on 2 March 1659.

Of course, his enigmatic appearances and disappearances from the historic record are fertile ground for someone like me, but the real Everard was one of the most significant of the radicals of the 1640s, and should be remembered alongside Lilburne, Hampden, Winstanley and the rest. Although, I have always had a sneaking  suspicion that there is something of the Agent Provocateur about him – I wonder how that will play out!

http://jemahlevans.wixsite.com/jemahlevans/single-post/2016/08/18/William-Everard-The-forgotten-man-of-the-English-Revolution

The Last Roundhead is available now, for around £8.00, through bookfinder.com – http://www.bookfinder.com/search/?author=Jemahl+Evans&title=The+Last+Roundhead&lang=en&st=xl&ac=qr

Concerns raised over Brighton and Hove City Council’s biggest sell-off of downland in 20 years

9 Nov 2016 / Neil Vowles
http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/14876063.Concerns_raised_over_council_s_biggest_sell_off_of_downland_in_20_years/

MORE than 100 acres of downland held in public ownership for decades is being flogged off in the biggest sale of its kind for 20 years.

Campaigners are calling for a freeze on the 120 acre downland sell-off by Brighton and Hove City Council warning of damaging repercussions for the South Downs with a loss of public access and reduced conservation at important wildlife sites.

The sales are being arranged by the cash-strapped council, which has to find 18 million of cuts in the next financial year and 145 million by 2020.

The sale includes two sites of special scientific interest, part of a Scheduled Ancient Monument, a 50-year old nature reserve and two vital parts of the Devil s Dyke setting according to opponents of the sale.

Council bosses said the land represented just one per cent of its 12,000 acre Downland estate, the equivalent of around 7,000 football pitches, with the sale of “less valuable heritage assets” in a bid to help fund the 5.8 million Stanmer Park restoration project.

Campaigners are concerned that the sales could be just the beginning of a wider sell-off but council officials insisted no more are planned at present.

Land sales causing campaigners concern include three acres of The Junipers at the old Sussex Wildlife Trust Saddlescombe Nature Reserve sold to a private buyer for the paltry sum of 35,000 .

Environmentalists say it is the sole remaining site for juniper in East Sussex, a well-known site for rare orchid species and bats, and the single most important plot in the whole Downland estate.

Devil s Dyke Field has been sold to its tenant while the ten-acre Park Wall Farm at Falmer was snapped up for 175,000 though the council said it would be protected as grazing land.

Campaigners are also unhappy about the proposed sale of the 22-acre site The Racecourse outside Poynings, a wonderful fossil site that is the match of the better-known Bridport Cliffs in Dorset, and the loss from public ownership of Plumpton Hill Scarp though the council has said this will continue to be farmed by Plumpton College with public access fixed in perpetuity.

Environmental campaigner Dave Bangs said all the land should be kept in public ownership in perpetuity.

He added: These sales open the door to privatisation of Brighton s entire Downland Estate.

Without democratic public accountability we must expect threats to public usage, neglect, damage to important wildlife habitat, inappropriate development, and more shooting and hunting.”

Chris Todd, of Brighton and Hove Friends of the Earth, said: “We have real concerns about this, most of the public is largely unaware of what is being done.

I think people thought it was just a few minor old buildings or pieces of land of small value whereas they are proposing to sell hugely important wildlife sites.”

A city council spokeswoman said: The sites chosen are non-core assets owned by the council, some of which are outside the city s boundaries.

Most of the Downland Estate is within the South Downs National Park and protected by the highest level of statutory protection possible.

When the council sells land we take advice from specialist agents to make sure appropriate control mechanisms are put in place to protect the council and the city s residents against future development or possible changes in use.

THESE ARE NATIONALLY IMPORTANT WILDLIFE SITES

SIR Herbert Carden is one of the founding fathers of Brighton and the city s impressive downland landholding is considered by many to be his greatest legacy.

His vision, 80 years before the South Downs National Park was created, was to preserve the Downs for the enjoyment of its residents and protect the city s water supply.

Sir Herbert was prepared to back up his ideology with his wallet, buying land when it became available and reselling it to the council at no profit.

It is a vision and an example that subsequent Labour politicians in the city have failed to live up to, according to environmentalists opposed to proposals to sell up to 120 acres of publicly owned downland.

Chris Todd, of Brighton and Hove Friends of the Earth, said: The council is seeing this land purely as a money-making resource but it was originally purchased to protect the area from development and protect the water supply.

It was purchased for its conservation value and that has been completely forgotten.

I think we have lost a bit of vision in the city.

For environmental campaigners with long memories, talk of downland sales under a Labour council is a strong case of d j vu.

In 1995 Brighton Borough Council proposed the sale of large swathes of the estate.

The proposals, prompted by financial concerns following a change in local government financing, were reined in, in the face of widespread opposition.

Mr Todd said: 20 years ago the council tried to sell off the downland thinking it wasn’t really valued and they got a rude awakening.

Since then the council has respected the public desire to maintain public ownership of the Downs.

They might not be trying to sell off on the same scale this time but these are nationally important wildlife sites being sold off.

Two decades on, the move is again being driven by financial necessity, this time to raise around 2.5 million of match-funding for the Stanmer Park restoration.

Brighton and Hove City Council said it had been forced to plan creatively to save one of the city s most picturesque, historically significant and most visited parks .

But environmentalists claim that the land being sold off is of greater environmental value than Stanmer Park.

Brighton-based author and environmental campaigner Dave Bangs said: We estimate that the total sum gained so far from these sales is around 290,000.

This is below the price of one suburban semi in many parts of Brighton and a pathetic sum for such dreadful losses of land with multiple public values.

Maintenance, let alone restoration, of the city s heritage gems and green spaces is becoming increasingly strained with ever dwindling budgets austerity measures will mean the council will have cut £145 million from its budget between 2011 and 2020.

It means that for major works, such as the long-proposed restoration of Stanmer Park, the authority is largely reliant on outside bodies such as the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Even then the council is expected to do its part in match-funding what it receives.

In times of plenty, that additional funding could be found within existing budgets and reserves but now funding has to be found through selling assets assets which could provide revenue for the council for years to come.

There remain serious reservations over the proposed 5.8 million Stanmer Park project which includes the restoration of 20 hectares of the park s landscape, reconfiguring traffic and creating new horticultural training opportunities.

Mr Todd said: I think it is a good idea to reduce the number of cars in the park by increasing the perimeter car parking but not at the cost of so many trees while the idea of having a supermarket sized car park in the middle is illogical and nonsensical.

Of real concern for campaigners now opposing the sell-off is the question of what will happen to land once it goes into public ownership.

The past history is not good according to Mr Bangs.

A 2011 report by campaigners revealed that more than half of Forestry Commission land sold in and around Sussex had been made inaccessible to walkers after passing into private hands.

Barriers built up along public rights of way, breaches of environmental safety standards by hunting and the dividing up of woodland were all observed.

Mr Bangs said: It s happened before.

St Mary s Farm, which was sold by Brighton Council, had ancient pasture and woods bulldozed and it s now a game bird shoot.

Woods sold by the Forestry Commission are now without public access, neglected and used for shooting.

Residents are being reassured that downland will continue to be protected under private ownership.

A South Downs National Park spokesman said: We work closely with both private and local authority landowners.

Approximately 60 per cent of the National Park, all of it in private hands, is now covered by farm clusters groups of farmers and landowners working together to make a real difference to our landscapes, habitats and wildlife that they couldn t achieve alone.

Planning permission would be required before any land could change from agriculture to other uses.

For public rights of way an owner would need to apply for permission to change rights and this is very unlikely to be approved.

But Mr Todd warned that private sector ownership was likely to leave a negative impact.

He said: You are not going to get huge housing development suddenly appearing on the Downs but you could see incremental development which in its way is the most damaging.

What s more likely is that the land could be ploughed up which makes it less accessible The people who buy this land will want to get a commercial return on it, managing the wildlife is not likely to be their number one priority.

And the worst case scenario is that downland could fall into the hands of unscrupulous landowners who show disregard for wildlife conservation.

Earlier this year, campaigners were left aghast at the damage wreaked by wealthy landowner James Hyatt who ordered the felling of 13 acres of ancient forest at Pondtail Wood near Hurstpierpoint.

Mr Todd said: Although Pondtail Wood was not sold from public ownership, there is nothing to stop somebody from purchasing land from Brighton and Hove City Council and selling it on.

Anyone could end up with these bits of land and could do all sorts of things before authorities can step in to do something about it.

RECREATION USE LIKELY

Expert view by Simon Lewis

I EXPECT that a lot of these pieces of land will go to neighbouring properties depending on their location and proximity to other landowners.

The site at Saddlescombe is just three acres of scrubland which could go to anybody really.

I imagine it would probably be most attractive to someone from the horsey community, someone who wanted a nice little site for their pony.

It s far more likely to be used for recreation, for a pony, than for any kind of shoot or anything like that.

Plumpton Hill is the last of the sites to go and it has an agricultural tenancy on it so there is almost no chance of getting vacant possession on that unless the college goes out of existence.

I would expect it would go to an institution, it certainly isn’t a very profitable investment so that is why it is going for such a low price.

It s highly unlikely that it would get anything through planning for the sites.

It depends a lot on the proximity to the villages and to other buildings but I would be very surprised to see any development on them whatsoever.

Even for horses you would have to get planning permission for a stable though you could try for something temporary.

a Landrights campaign for Britain

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