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.

Sale of Peak District National Park woodlands, a sign of growing “privatisation” of countryside, campaigners say

National Park in privatisation row as it sells woodlands

Dean Kirby – Thursday August 17th 2017

HATHERSAGE, UNITED KINGDOM – SEPTEMBER 09: Heather glows after sunset in Millstone Quarry in the Peak District on September 09, 2014 in Hathersage, United Kingdom. Much of the UK continues to enjoy mild Autumn weather with sunshine set to last for the next few days. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Campaigners have hit out at Britains oldest national park and the birthplace of the fight for countryside access for selling off woodlands to the highest bidder. The Peak District National Park was formed in 1951 and nearly two decades earlier was the scene of the Kinder Scout trespass, where ramblers fought with gamekeepers in the first battle for the right to roam. Now the park authority, which manages more than 100 woodlands covering 417 hectares, has sold off 14 woodlands and is currently in the process of selling six more. It says anyone can buy the woods including members of the public and community groups and any access rights will remain. But campaigners have hit back saying they fear the move is a sign of a growing privatisation of the countryside.

Cat Hobbs from We Own It, which wants public services to stay in public ownership, said: These beautiful woods belong to everyone. They’re a public asset we can all be proud of and enjoy. Selling them off for a quick buck is wrong and it could be a slippery slope. The Peak District National Park had a duty to safeguard precious public woodland for our children and grandchildren. Why is it handing over ownership to the highest bidder? The park acquired the woodlands when it was designated a national park, with the aim of securing these important landscape features and rescuing woodlands which were under threat or in need of restoration. It also took over some woodlands as part of countryside estates. The park authority says it has restored the woodlands is now returning them to the community by selling them to reduce its liabilities and make the most of our resources. It says anyone can buy the woods, from members of public to community groups and people who love trees, adding that it could be adjacent landowners, but it doesn’t have to be. Once sold they will stay as woodlands and any access rights will remain intact, the authority says.

“It is very easy to get rid of access rights”

But Tony Gosling, from land rights campaign group This Land is Ours, said: Its ludicrous that land that has been available for public use is being sold at a time when people are spending more and more of their leisure time in the countryside. Saying that the land is being given to the community is just spin. It could be bought by a foreign investor. Even if a covenant is put in place, once land becomes privately owned, it is very easy for a landowner to get rid of access rights. The six woodlands currently being sold include the 4.7-acre Flagg Moor woodland of sycamore, ash and beech trees, near Buxton, which is up for sale at 20,000. Another, Jacksons Plantation in the Peak Forest, has been sold after being tendered at the same price. A spokesman for the Peak District National Park said: There are covenants in place to ensure the woodlands are maintained to protect the wildlife and to prevent development. Money raised from the sale of the woodlands will be re-invested to look after the National Park and help people enjoy it.
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Sale of Peak Park woodlands is sign of growing “privatisation” of countryside, campaigners say

Campaigners have criticised a move to sell off woodlands in the Peak District National Park
REPORTER Email Published: 12:44 Friday 18 August 2017 0 HAVE YOUR SAY
Campaigners have said the sale of woodlands in the Peak District National Park is a sign of a growing “privatisation” of the countryside. The Peak District National Park Authority has already sold off 14 woodlands, and is currently in the process of selling six more. It says anyone can buy the woods including members of the public and community groups and any access rights will remain. But campaigners have hit back saying they fear the move is a sign of a growing privatisation of the countryside. Cat Hobbs from We Own It, which wants public services to stay in public ownership, said: These beautiful woods belong to everyone. Theyre a public asset we can all be proud of and enjoy. Selling them off for a quick buck is wrong and it could be a slippery slope. The Peak District National Park had a duty to safeguard precious public woodland for our children and grandchildren. Why is it handing over ownership to the highest bidder? The park acquired the woodlands when it was designated a national park, with the aim of securing these important landscape features and rescuing woodlands which were under threat or in need of restoration. It also took over some woodlands as part of countryside estates. The park authority says it has restored the woodlands and is now returning them to the community by selling them to reduce its liabilities and make the most of our resources. It says anyone can buy the woods, from members of public to community groups and people who love trees, adding that it could be adjacent landowners, but it doesnt have to be. Once sold they will stay as woodlands and any access rights will remain intact, the authority says. It is very easy to get rid of access rights But Tony Gosling, from land rights campaign group This Land is Ours, said: Its ludicrous that land that has been available for public use is being sold at a time when people are spending more and more of their leisure time in the countryside. Saying that the land is being given to the community is just spin. It could be bought by a foreign investor. Even if a covenant is put in place, once land becomes privately owned, it is very easy for a landowner to get rid of access rights. The six woodlands currently being sold include the 4.7-acre Flagg Moor woodland of sycamore, ash and beech trees, near Buxton, which is up for sale at 20,000. Another, Jacksons Plantation in the Peak Forest, has been sold after being tendered at the same price. A spokesman for the Peak District National Park said: There are covenants in place to ensure the woodlands are maintained to protect the wildlife and to prevent development. Money raised from the sale of the woodlands will be re-invested to look after the National Park and help people enjoy it.

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Australia: New totalitarian law forces end to Sydney tent city protest

By Virginia Browne and Richard Phillips – 17 August 2017

About 60 homeless people involved in a long-running tent city protest in central Sydney’s Martin Place were forced to leave the area last Friday morning, two days after the Liberal-National state government in New South Wales (NSW) imposed repressive new laws giving police explicit powers to arrest and fine the homeless.

The protest, which began last December, sought to pressure the state government and the Sydney city council to boost crisis accommodation for the increasing numbers of homeless in the city. Known as the 24/7 Street Kitchen and Safe Space, the protest encampment was located outside the Reserve Bank of Australia and close to the state parliament.
Homeless protest in Martin Place

The state government responded with draconian legislation – the Sydney Public Reserves (Public Safety) Act – which it pushed through the parliament in just 24 hours last week, rejecting minor amendments from Labor and the Greens.

This measure will not just force the homeless out of Sydney’s central business district and city tourist locations but punish and potentially jail them. Its provisions extend far beyond the homeless, to cover any protest or other activity in a public reserve.

Not only can people be evicted, their tents and other possessions can be seized. They can be fined up to $5,500 for failing to comply, obstructing police or committing any other offence prescribed by regulations under the Act.

The legislation hands sweeping powers to a police officer to give a direction to anyone, or any group of people, if the officer believes that the people’s presence ‘interferes with the reasonable enjoyment of the rights’ of any ‘section of the public’ in a public reserve. It applies to Martin Place, or any other Sydney public reserve proclaimed by the state government.

Such directions can include an order to leave the reserve and not return for a specified period, but there is no limit on the type of direction that the police can issue. The only exemptions are for ‘authorised public assemblies’ or gatherings related to an ‘industrial dispute.’

This is the third anti-protest legislation imposed by the NSW state government during the past 18 months. Last year, extraordinary laws were introduced that can be used to shut down political protests and punish dissent. Two other Australian states also brought forward laws that criminalise protests or any other activities that are alleged to disrupt business operations.

The latest legislation was preceded by a hysterical campaign involving the state government and the media.

On August 4, NSW Family and Community Services Minister Pru Goward declared: ‘I don’t care what it takes, we will move these people on.’ NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller added: ‘They will be gone at some stage’ but this won’t be the last time we will have a problem with the mixed homeless group with a taste for protest activity.’

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore, a so-called independent backed by the Labor Party and the Greens, had said she would oppose government attempts to expel the protesters and claimed to have organised a deal for the homeless. Moore’s promise was empty posturing – the ‘deal’ did not involve any accommodation – and the state government pushed through its legislation.

Sydney City Council had previously intervened to dismantle tents and remove the belongings of homeless people camping or staying overnight in Martin Place, Wentworth Park and other inner-city areas.

In June 2016, council workers and police evicted homeless people who had been camping for six months outside the former Westpac building in Martin Place. The homeless were presented with a letter signed by director of city operations, David Riordan, deeming the camp a ‘public nuisance.’

The assault on Sydney’s homeless occurred during ‘National Homeless Week.’ The annual publicity event generally involves corporate executives and celebrities spending a night sleeping rough, which does nothing to stem the rising numbers of homeless and acute housing affordability crisis.

Across Australia, homeless shelters and crisis accommodation centres are at capacity and turning people away. Homelessness Australia chairwoman Jenny Smith said: ‘We have 280,000 [homeless people] who have been seen by our services last year, which is an increase by 43,000 on the previous year.’

Sydney, where property prices and rents have soared, particularly over the past six years, is ranked the least affordable city for housing and accommodation in Australia and one of the most unaffordable cities in the world.

Homelessness Australia in 2013, estimated that NSW had over 29,000 homeless people, the highest of any Australian state or territory. According to the latest official City of Sydney street count, in February there were 433 homeless people and 489 people in crisis or temporary accommodation centres in central Sydney alone. This was a 28 percent increase since 2011.

While criminalising homelessness, the NSW government, like its Liberal-National and Labor counterparts around Australia, is continuing to systematically run down and sell off public housing. Inner-city public housing estates, particularly those with harbour views or at other prime locations, are providing windfall profits for state governments.

A short distance from Martin Place, the government is forcing public housing tenants out of the Sirius apartment block and selling the building. Scores of affordable rental homes and apartments are also being privatised at nearby Millers Point.

There are 60,000 people on the waiting list for public housing in NSW and almost 200,000 nationally. Only a handful of these people will ever secure the accommodation they seek. At the same time, financial speculation in Australia’s housing property bubble has produced hundreds of thousands of unoccupied homes and apartments across the country.

Organisers of the Martin Place tent city claimed the protest would ‘shine a light’ on homelessness and pressure the state government to increase the number of crisis accommodation places. Confronted with the new laws, protest leaders directed the participants to pull down their tents and vacate Martin Place. According to protest organisers, at least 20 percent of those from the tent city are still ‘sleeping rough’ in other inner-city streets.

WSWS reporters spoke with tent residents and volunteers last Friday before the protest was shut down. They explained that any accommodation offered by charities was only short-term – usually no more than a couple of nights in a hotel.

Nigel lived in the Martin Place tent city for about six months. He previously worked in advertising but went through a divorce in Hong Kong, resulting in his deportation to Australia. He had to leave his 10-year-old son in Hong Kong. A downward spiral of depression and isolation began when he returned to Australia.

‘Living here has taken me out of isolation, made me interact with people and given me confidence. Lanz [Priestly, the protest organiser] has got me working in the kitchen and around the community generally – When we have to move we’ve got to stick together. We have to keep this community together and move together somewhere else.’

Stu, originally from Auckland in New Zealand, joined the Martin Place protest when it began last December.

‘I’m here because I want to show people in Sydney how bad the homeless situation is and to be in solidarity with other homeless people. I came to Australia in 1979 and worked as a French polisher and in other jobs. I set up a small business in Canberra importing fireworks but the government changed the law and my business collapsed.

‘There were court cases and appeals. All the money I had went on that and my life went downhill. I was jailed for 15 months for driving without a licence. I couldn’t get any work and I’ve now got heart problems and I’m on a disability.

‘I’ve been homeless now for seven years. I’ve been helped by various charities but it’s only temporary. They can’t seem to be able to do much for us. The tents and sleeping bags we have here have been donated but apart from that the people here don’t have anything. It’s homeless week and there’s all this publicity. We have CEOs doing sleep outs every year but this doesn’t change anything.

‘I don’t agree with the state government or Sydney council. They talk on the media about how they’re concerned about homelessness, but what do they do? Politicians are only interested in looking after the rich. They can push us out of Martin Place or pass laws banning what we’re doing but this isn’t going to help us find accommodation and we’ll just have to go somewhere else. They want to cover up the problem.’

The author also recommends:
Australia: Melbourne homeless speak out against police harassment
[18 January 2017]
Australia: Melbourne homeless continue city protest
[6 June 2016]

Grouse moor landowners take criminal toll on our birds of prey

#Inglorious12th Thunderclap

The so called Glorious 12th (August) sees the start of grouse shooting season in the uplands.
You may hear lots of stories about how the uplands are managed and all the benefits that come with that for some breeding birds like Curlew for example; but there is of course a darker side to all this in the form of raptor persecution.  Grouse moors are intensively managed to produce unnaturally large numbers of Red Grouse, many of which will then be shot.  But anything that would naturally prey on the Red Grouse is not welcome on the shooting estates and it is worrying to see a lack of natural predators in these areas.
Don’t let my opinion sway you though, take a look through some of these links and decide for yourself.
Alleged illegal killing of a protected hen harrier
Shot Cumbrian Peregrine found at same location as dead Hen Harrier
Police investigating hen harrier death in Ravenstonedale area
Golden Eagles disappear too – mostly over grouse moors
Something I am learning is that where there is big money to be made there can also be criminal activity. Wildlife crime is not something you hear about enough in the news, as the environment and natural world are so far down the list of priorities in government, business, education etc.
 The evidence just keeps getting clearer and clearer that serious wildlife crime is taking place in the uplands.  Modern day technology is helping to bring these activities to light more and more.
Just one more statistic for you. In theory, the uplands in England could support over 300 pairs of hen harriers. Last year we just had just 4 breeding pairs.  Only about 1% of what could be there. Not really a statistic to be pushed down the priority list. And this year’s number of breeding hen harriers in England is not looking promising either. But even if the numbers doubled to 8 pairs, it still wouldn’t be acceptable.

So as the social media posts about the so called Glorious 12th start flooding in, wouldn’t it be great to see #Inglorious12th trending and raising much needed awareness about the criminal activity that continues to plague these important breeding grounds.

All comments are welcome, whether you agree or disagree. It’s always good to hear a wide range of opinions and ideas to move things forward.

Please sign up to the #Inglorious12th Thunderclap by clicking here and help raise awareness.

Last year 482 people signed up to a similar thunderclap and we created a social reach of over 1.3 million people. It would be great to reach even more people this year.

Thank you.
…………………………………………………Updates Since Blog Posted

This blog was only posted weeks ago, and yet the illegal raptor persecution continues. Including this one:

Short-eared owl shot on Leadhills Estate

Since this blogpost was first published, the RSPB Skydancer team have published this year’s hen harrier breeding numbers.

Only 3 pairs of hen harrier have successfully bred in England this year

Homeless charity Crisis reveals over 12,100 UK households are squatting

Nearly 160,000 households, estimated at just under a quarter of a million people, are experiencing the worst forms of homelessness across Britain, with rough sleeping forecast to rise by 76 per cent in the next decade unless the governments in Westminster, Scotland and Wales take long-term action to tackle it.

This is according to new expert analysis conducted for Crisis by Heriot-Watt University providing the most complete picture to-date of the worst forms of homelessness, including rough sleeping and sofa surfing, as well as 25-year forecasts for each category across England, Wales and Scotland.

You can read or download the report here

Launched as part of Crisis’s 50th anniversary year and drawing on the most up-to-date sources available, the report estimates that at any one time in 2016 across Britain [breakdown also available by nation]:

  • 9,100 people were sleeping rough, compared to previous estimates placing rough sleeping at 4,134 households for England
  • 68,300 households* were sofa surfing
  • 19,300 households were living in unsuitable temporary accommodation
  • 37,200 households were living in hostels
  • 26,000 households were living in other circumstances, including:
    • 8,900 households sleeping in tents, cars or on public transport
    • 12,100 households living in squats
    • 5,000 households in women’s refuges or winter night shelters

Drawing on detailed economic modelling, the report warns that if current policies continue unchanged, the most acute forms of homelessness are likely to keep rising, with overall numbers estimated to increase by more than a quarter in the coming decade (26.5 per cent) and households in unsuitable temporary accommodation set to nearly double (93 per cent) [see appendix for graph]. 

The analysis also looks at how different policies could make an impact on this projected rise. Based on the model, a 60 per cent increase in new housing could reduce levels of homelessness by 19 per cent by 2036, while increased prevention work could reduce levels by 34 per cent in the same period.

In response to the report’s findings, Crisis is calling on the public to join its Everybody In campaign – a national movement for permanent change aimed at ending the worst forms of homelessness once and for all.

Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis, said: “This year Crisis marks its 50th anniversary, but that’s little cause for celebration. We still exist because homelessness still exists, and today’s report makes it only too clear that unless we take action as a society, the problem is only going to get worse with every year that passes. That means more people sleeping on our streets, in doorways or bus shelters, on the sofas of friends or family, or getting by in hostels and B&Bs. In order to tackle this, we need to first understand the scale of the problem.

“Regardless of what happens in people’s lives, whatever difficulties they face or choices they make, no one should ever have to face homelessness. With the right support at the right time, it doesn’t need to be inevitable. There are solutions, and we’re determined to find them and make them a reality.

“Yet we can’t do this alone, which is why we’re calling on the public to back our Everybody In campaign and help us build a movement for change. Together we can find the answers, and make sure those in power listen to them.”

“We warmly welcome the Government’s pledge to tackle rough sleeping and other forms of homelessness. Now’s the time for action and long term planning to end homelessness for good.”

Everybody In aims to bring people together to change opinions, raise awareness and ultimately end homelessness for good, and includes a library of first-hand accounts showing the reality of homelessness in Britain.

Alongside this, Crisis will be working towards a national plan to end the worst forms of homelessness once and for all, bringing together everything needed to make this happen, including consultations in all three nations and a large scale programme of research.

Today’s report is the first of two parts, with the second – due for publication in the Autumn – to examine ‘wider homelessness’, including people at risk of homelessness or those who have already experienced it, such as households that have been served an eviction notice and those in other forms of temporary accommodation.

The Grenfell inquiry must feel the collars of the developers carving up our cities

The revolving door connecting politicians with lobbyists clearly helps them, but does it benefit us?

Anna Minton is a housing writer and author of Ground Control: fear and happiness in the twenty-first-century city

The community of North Kensington is demanding that the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire be widened in scope. It must, local people say, “seek to understand how residents’ voices have been systematically ignored for so long”. On the other side of London, Haringey residents took to the streets last week, protesting at their council’s plans for regeneration.

To understand why people feel their voices are not being heard, it is essential to investigate the environment in which politicians and developers operate. Local government has a history of corruption that includes the jailing of the Newcastle council leader T Dan Smith in the early 1970s, and the illegal decisions made by Shirley Porter in the Westminster “homes for votes” scandal in the 1980s.

Today such criminality is rarer. Instead, we have a concerning culture of cronyism that, while not illegal, suggests a lack of accountability. From the housing minister down to the local councillor, elected politicians now routinely rub shoulders with property developers, house builders and commercial lobbyists. This is no accident. Politicians’ decisions have an impact on companies’ ambitions, whether they are reviewing planning applications, setting affordable housing targets or “regenerating” whole areas. Bluntly, companies want these decisions to go their way. Develop connections with the decision-maker and you can “strip out risk”, in the words of one lobbying firm.

The politicisation of planning has come with the growth of the regeneration industry. While once planning officers in local government made recommendations that elected members of planning committees generally followed, today lobbyists are able to exert far greater influence.

It’s not easy to see into this world, but there are traces in the public domain. Registers of hospitality, for example, detail some of the interactions between councillors and the commercial property business. Take a week in the life of Nick Paget-Brown, the Kensington and Chelsea leader who resigned in the aftermath of the Grenfell fire. In October last year he had lunch at the five-star riverside Royal Horseguards Hotel courtesy of the property giant Willmott Dixon. The previous evening he had been at a reception put on by the business lobby group London First, whose membership is dominated by property and housing firms. He had breakfast with the Grosvenor Estate, the global property empire worth £6.5bn, and lunch at Knightsbridge’s Carlton Tower Hotel. This was paid for by the Cadogan Estate, the second largest of the aristocratic estates (after Grosvenor), which owns 93 acres in Kensington, including Sloane Square and the King’s Road.

Image result for rock feilding mellenTory in charge of Grenfell Tower refurbishment investigated TWICE over his role: Rock Feilding-Mellen was probed after Kensington and Chelsea Council approved a scheme to lease a library building to a prep school at which his children were on the waiting list

Rock Feilding-Mellen, the councillor in charge of the Grenfell Tower refurbishment, who has stepped down as the council’s deputy leader, had his own list of engagements. As the Grenfell Action Group noted earlier this year, he was a dinner guest of Terrapin, the firm founded by Peter Bingle, a property lobbyist renowned for lavish hospitality.

Bingle is also a player in the other big regeneration story of recent weeks: Haringey council’s approval of plans for its HDV – Haringey development vehicle. This is a “partnership” with the Australian property developer Lendlease, a lobbying client of Terrapin’s. The HDV promises to create a £2bn fund to build a new town centre and thousands of new homes, but local residents on the Northumberland Park housing estate, whose homes will be demolished, are vehemently opposed. The Haringey leader, Claire Kober, has lunched or dined six times at Terrapin’s expense.

Nick Paget-Brown, leader of Kensington and Chelsea council.
Nick Paget-Brown, former leader of Kensington and Chelsea council.

In Southwark, just as in Haringey and Kensington, there is a revolving door between politicians and lobbyists. The former leader of Southwark council, Jeremy Fraser, went on to found the lobbying firm Four Communications, where he was joined by Southwark’s former cabinet member for regeneration Steve Lancashire. Derek Myers, who until 2013 jointly ran Kensington and Chelsea and Hammersmith and Fulham councils, is now a director of the London Communications Agency, a lobbying agency with property developers on its client list. Merrick Cockell, the leader of Kensington and Chelsea until 2013, now chairs the lobbying firm Cratus Communications, which also specialises in property lobbying. In Westminster, the hospitality register for the last three years of its deputy leader, Robert Davis – chair of the council’s planning committee for 17 years – runs to 19 pages.

Cities other than London and rural areas also provide examples of worrying relationships. In East Devon a serving councillor was found in 2013 to be offering his services as a consultant to help developers get the planning decisions they wanted. In Newcastle a councillor who worked for a lobbying company boasted of “tricks of the trade” that included making sure planning committees included friendly faces.

Meanwhile the culture of regular meetings and socialising does not stop with councils. The diary of David Lunts, head of housing and land at the Greater London Authority for the first three months of 2017, reveals a lunch in Mayfair with Bingle, a VIP dinner laid on by a London developer, another meal paid for by a housing giant, and dinner on Valentine’s Day with a regeneration firm. Consultants and a developer furnished him with more meals before he headed off to Cannes for Mipim, the world’s biggest property fair. He also had dinner with Rydon, the firm that refurbished Grenfell Tower.

Further up the food chain, it was only because of Bingle’s boasts that we heard of a dinner he gave the then local government secretary, Eric Pickles. Held in the Savoy’s Gondoliers Room, it was also attended by business chiefs, including one who was waiting for a planning decision from Pickles’s department. The dinner was never declared on any register of hospitality because Pickles said he was attending in a private capacity.

Lunt’s former colleague Richard Blakeway, who was London’s deputy mayor for housing until last year, and David Cameron’s adviser on housing policy, became a paid adviser to Willmott Dixon. He is also on the board of the Homes and Communities Agency, the government body that regulates and invests in social housing. Its chair is Blakeway’s old boss, the former London deputy mayor for policy and planning Ed Lister, who is also a non-executive director of the developer Stanhope.

The MP Mark Prisk, housing minister until 2013, advocated “removing unnecessary housing, construction and planning regulations” as part of the government’s red tape challenge. He became an adviser to the property developer Essential Living, eight months after leaving office. Prisk advises the firm on legislation, providing support for developments and “brand” building. Essential Living’s former development manager Nick Cuff was also a Conservative councillor and chair of Wandsworth’s planning committee. A colleague of Cuff’s, who spent 30 years in the south London borough’s planning department, now works for Bingle’s lobbying firm, Terrapin.

This is the world that Kensington’s Paget-Brown and Feilding-Mellen, Haringey’s Kober and countless other council leaders inhabit. Socialising between these property men – and they are mostly men – is used to cement ties, and the lines between politician, official, developer and lobbyist are barely drawn. This culture, and the questions of accountability it raises, must be part of the public inquiry into Grenfell. It is perhaps no surprise that the government doesn’t want it to be.

Tamasin Cave, a director of the lobbying transparency organisation Spinwatch, contributed to this article

Anna Minton is a housing writer and author of Ground Control: fear and happiness in the twenty-first-century city

Homeless people living on canal banks and forced to fish for their food in desperate struggle to survive

As pedestrians walk above, a man below casts his rod into Bridgwater Canal in Salford, Greater Manchester in desperation of catching his next meal

Next to the humming streets and just a few feet away from a busy city road lies the shocking truth of the state of Britain’s homelessness epidemic.

As pedestrians walk above, a man below casts his rod into Bridgwater Canal in Eccles, Salford, Greater Manchester, in desperation of catching his next meal.

This isn’t a day out for Stuart, his girlfriend Georgia Twemlow, and John – this is their life, at least for now.

Stuart sits on a disposed sofa by the banks with a fishing rod propped against his leg. Abba is blaring from his stereo, reports Manchester Evening News .

He’s fired up a barbecue and drinks from a bottle of water.

His friend ‘Russian John’ sits by his side. They both look towards the water, hoping for a bite.

Stuart and Georgina were turned down for housing 

All are homeless and Stuart and Georgia say they’ve been turned down for housing and have nowhere else to go.

Last week they were sleeping in a bus shelter, now this canal bank is their home.

The unusual settlement he has made with Georgia and John is now attracting attention from passers-by, but Stuart says people have been mostly supportive.

“I’ve made it my home, until the system changes,” he tells us.

“I chose this spot because it’s in my home town, it’s close to church, and it’s near the doctor’s – although I wasn’t allowed to register because I’ve got no address.

“It’s not near housing so we’re not bothering anyone. It’s all right, hopefully I’ll be able to feed myself and anyone else who needs it. I can totally Ray Mears it.”

Stuart has even planted chilli, garlic, apples turnips and onions in a patch of soil by the canal.

When he needs a wash he jumps into the water with his shower gel.

Friends who do have a home arrive to take a load of washing off him. They bring him food and cigarettes. Having lived here all his life, he’s well known in the area.

One visiting pal tells me: “Stuart’s a good guy, we’ve known him from growing up together on the Winton estate – he’d do anything for anyone.

”It’s sad he’s fallen on hard times and we want to help him out.”

Their camp isn’t going down well with everyone though – a visiting PCSO tells me there have been 14 complaints in two days.

But as the day continues, Stuart, Georgia and John are joined by more companions. Many explain they have mental health issues and they come to pass the time – as well as to draw support from each other’s company.

At night, they will take it turns to keep watch while the others sleep.

Georgia, 28, who suffers with depression, says she just needs a base to get her life back on track – but claims the council isn’t helping her because she’s classed as a ‘single person’.

She says she’s worked in the past but claims her landlord changed her locks to get her out, and without an address, she can’t get a bank account and is struggling to find work.

Faced with difficulties in her family estranged, she doesn’t like to ask friends for help.

Stuart, 35, known by pals as ‘Pottsy’, has led a turbulent life. In the past, he says he’s worked as a cobbler, locksmith, painter and decorator and in factories.

Stuart has been living on the streets ever since he was evicted from his social housing flat

But after suffering a breakdown and losing his family, he was kicked out of his rental property two months ago.

The housing system can often be hard to navigate – although housing bosses generally maintain that temporary housing, in the form of hostel places, is there for everyone who wants it. Stuart, however, insists he’s tried to get help from Salford Council but says he was told that he ‘was not a priority’.

“Look, I’ve got a criminal record,” he explains. “I’ve done some bad things in my life, but it’s all been petty crime. Drugs have been my problem but I don’t take them any more.

“But I’m in this situation for helping a homeless man. I met him in Rochdale and he needed somewhere to stay. I was on benefits, was living in a flat and I let him stay in my lounge. I wanted to give the lad a chance. But the landlord found out and kicked me out. He was a good landlord, he just couldn’t deal with it at the time.

“We were both made homeless. I sofa-surfed for a while, tried to find somewhere new but I couldn’t. Without an address, I can’t get a bank account, it’s the system.”

Forced out of a tent in Manchester city centre and resorting to sleeping in a bus shelter, both say they’ve appealed again to Salford Council for housing.

“They said we aren’t a priority. When will we be? When we’re beaten up, stabbed? They wouldn’t even tell me what their criteria is,” says Stuart.

“It’s just got worse and worse. People end up in prison because it’s the only place they have somewhere to live. The system isn’t working, someone needs to shake it up.

“I’ll keep living here until I get my life back.”

“I want everyone to have a nice home. Everyone says there’s enough fish in the sea – and I know for sure there’s enough land and houses for everyone to live in but there are still people starving while at the supermarkets there are bins brimming with food.”

Stuart looks back at his rod, a maggot dangling from the end of his line. “We caught our first fish last night – a roach. We had it for dinner. We’re dropping bread in and we hope that will attract the little fish.

“And then those little fish will bring in the pike, then we’ll eat. I’ll feed anyone who needs it.

“It’s about playing the long game. The slowest horse wins the race.”

Salford Council has been contacted for comment about Stuart and Georgia’s situation.

They have a sofa and two chairs, a bookcase and a bed to sleep on which they found chucked out by a nearby furniture dealer. They’ve managed to find a carpet to cover the concrete towpath as well as an old tent cover to shelter them from the rain.

With the sun shining as it has done today, it looks like the open air set of a sitcom.

But the grim reality of life outdoors is anything but funny. The fishing rod isn’t just a way of passing the time – it’s to give the group food for their next meal.

Stuart is a 35-year-old dad-of-four. He once had a stable life but has been living on the streets – including a spell in a tent in Manchester city centre – ever since being evicted from his social housing flat.

Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg’s wife’s ancestral home benefits from £7.6m state rescue

It was billed as an act of generosity — a decision that would “save” a “key piece of northern heritage” for the nation.

But Philip Hammond’s commitment in this week’s Autumn Statement to spend £7.6m on restoring Wentworth Woodhouse, England’s largest private home, also had a little-known beneficiary: the house happens to be ancestral home of the mother-in-law of Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Conservative MP who is among the chancellor’s noisiest critics.

Mr Rees-Mogg said he had no involvement in the campaign to save Wentworth Woodhouse. But after hearing the Autumn Statement in which the funding was announced, he for once dropped his criticism of Mr Hammond and described his overall budget as “excellent”.

“I liked the fact that there was only one gimmick. The fact that the gimmick was Wentworth Woodhouse I liked more,” said the backbencher, one of whose children has Wentworth as a middle name.

The house is renowned as the inspiration for Jane Austen’s Pemberley, possibly erroneously given that there is no evidence that the author visited the estate. Its ill-repair dates from the post-war Labour government’s decision to allow coal mining in the gardens after the nationalisation of the coal industry in 1945. Mr Rees-Mogg described the move as “the most outrageous act of socialist envy”, although the Fitzwilliam family, the owners, had built their vast fortune from mining on their lands.

The Fitzwilliams moved out in 1946 and the house was put into a family trust. Lady Juliet Tadgell, the only child of the earl and now Mr Rees-Mogg’s mother-in-law, inherited the family fortune but not the home. She is one of the trustees of the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust, which has raised £7m to acquire the house.

Politicians involved with the campaign to save the stately home say they had no idea of Mr Rees-Mogg’s personal attachment to the property. “I am not sure he’s ever been to Rotherham but we’d be glad to see him here,” said John Healey, the local Labour MP. Robert Jenrick, the Conservative MP and heritage specialist, said Mr Rees-Mogg had “played no part in our lobbying of the chancellor”.

Located in south Yorkshire, Wentworth Woodhouse is not very well known, reflecting its limited opening to the public as well as its unglamorous location near the M1, among the area’s former mines.

The government funding, which will be used to address subsidence caused by the coal mining, is expected to create jobs in the surrounding area, which includes the town of Rotherham. “The factor that really secured the funding was making a major investment in a very deprived community,” said Mr Jenrick. The Fitzwilliam family continue to own much of the surrounding estate and have invested in restoring it.

Mr Healey said there was some irony in Mr Hammond’s rescue as the government had fought a long and finally successful battle in the courts to resist demands for £100m in compensation for the subsidence caused by the mining. The case failed in June.

Mr Rees-Mogg said he had “deliberately played no role in the campaign”. Nor had he been asked to contribute financially to the project: a recent report of his net worth being up to £150m was “not faintly true”.

The Trust expects to complete the acquisition of Wentworth Woodhouse early next year. It estimates that at least £35m more investment is needed over 15 years to make the house self-reliant, including the conversion of some areas into apartments and business units.

Mr Rees-Mogg said he had visited the house a couple of years ago at the invitation of the then owners, the Newbolds. The public will be able to visit from next spring.

Summer of 1645: Trials of the Leveller founder, Freeborn John Lilburne

The World Turned Upside Down: The Trials of Freeborn John


June and July are interesting months in the historical chronology of the Levellers. Three hundred and seventy two years ago next month sees the anniversary of the arrest of John Lilburne, the famous Leveller agitator, for the alleged slandering of William Lenthall, at that time the Speaker of the House of Commons. The grounds upon which the warrants were issued centred upon supposedly false accusations that Lenthall had been corresponding with Royalists. The fact that many of those within the English Civil War Parliamentary Movement, who were simultaneously members of the landed gentry and therefore represented the interests of wealth and privilege that had historically been aligned to the Crown, were ultimately seeking a compromise with the King and the establishment of a limited monarchy along modern constitutional lines, means that it is perfectly possible that these accusations were well founded. However, in the absence of hard evidence Lilburne had nothing to substantiate the claims that he had made and was therefore to find himself imprisoned.

That October, however, in spite of the gravity of what he had been accused of, Lilburne was to be released in the wake of a petition to the House of Commons which had been signed by over two thousand leading London citizens. This in itself would tend to suggest that many of the population, particularly among the limited classes who were at that time eligible to vote, not only shared his views but were willing to put their signatures to a document in order to defend them. Of further significance is the historic role of the London Citizenry in the crowning of each successive monarch in Anglo-Saxon times. Something that would feature much in the writings and discourse of many of those who were to become caught up in the Leveller Movement of which Lilburne himself was to all intents and purposes the founder.  A fact that is evidenced by reference to the transcripts of the Putney Debates.

But this was not to be the end of the affair by any means. The following year, in June 1646 Lilburne was to find himself arrested and imprisoned again. This time for slandering the Earl of Manchester, whom he had accused of protecting an officer who had been charged with treason. In addition to this he had also referred to Manchester, who had been Lilburne’s former commander prior to the latter’s resignation of his commission upon refusing to sign the Solemn League and Covenant, a matter we shall look at in detail in a future post, both as a traitor as well as a Royalist sympathiser.

On the eleventh of July 1646 Lilburne was brought before the House of Lords, and following a short trial, sentenced to seven years imprisonment. The Judgement of the House of Lords, dated the same day as his trial, that of 11th July 1646, is transcribed in full below:

“It is to be remembered, that, the Tenth Day of July, in the Two and Twentieth Year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord King Charles, Sir Nathaniell Finch Knight, His Majesty’s Serjeant at Law, did deliver in, before the Lords assembled in Parliament at Westm’r, certain Articles against Lieutenant Colonel John Lilburne, for High Crimes and Misdemeanors done and committed by him, together with certain Books and Papers thereunto annexed; which Articles, and the said Books and Papers thereunto annexed, are filed among the Records of Parliament; the Tenor of which Articles followeth, in these Words:

“It was then and there, (that is to say,) the said Tenth Day of July, by their Lordships Ordered, That the said John Lilbourne be brought to the Bar of this House the 11th Day of the said July, to answer the said Articles, that thereupon their Lordships might proceed therein according as to Justice should appertain; at which Day, scilicet, the 11th Day of July, Anno Domini 1646, the said John Lilburne, according to the said Order, was brought before the Peers then assembled and sitting in Parliament, to answer the said Articles; and the said John Lilburne being thereupon required, by the said Peers in Parliament, to kneel at the Bar of the said House, as is used in such Cases, and to hear his said Charge read, to the End that he might be enabled to make Defence thereunto, the said John Lilburne, in Contempt and Scorn of the said High Court, did not only refuse to kneel at the said Bar, but did also, in a contemptuous Manner, then and there, at the open Bar of the said House, openly and contemptuously refuse to hear the said Articles read, and used divers contemptuous Words, in high Derogation of the Justice, Dignity, and Power of the said Court; and the said Charge being nevertheless then and there read, the said John Lilburne was then and there, by the said Lords assembled in Parliament, demanded what Answer or Defence he would make thereunto; the said John Lilburne, persisting in his obstinate and contemptuous Behaviour, did peremptorily and absolutely refuse to make any Defence or Answer to the said Articles; and did then and there, in high Contempt of the said Court, and of the Peers there assembled, at the open Bar of the said House of Peers, affirm, “That they were Usurpers and unrighteous Judges, and that he would not answer the said Articles;” and used divers other insolent and contemptuous Speeches against their Lordships and that High Court: Whereupon the Lords assembled in Parliament, taking into their serious Consideration the said contemptuous Carriage and Words of the said John Lilburne, to the great Affront and Contempt of this High and Honourable Court, and the Justice, Authority, and Dignity thereof; it is therefore, this present 11th Day of July, Ordered and Adjudged, by the Lords assembled in Parliament, That the said John Lilburne be fined, and the said John Lilburne by the Lords assembled in Parliament, for his said Contempt, is fined, to the King’s Majesty, in the Sum of Two Thousand Pounds: And it is further Ordered and Adjudged, by the said Lords assembled in Parliament, That the said John Lilburne, for his said Contempts, be and stand committed to The Tower of London, during the Pleasure of this House: And further the said Lords assembled in Parliament, taking into Consideration the said contemptuous Refusal of the said John Lilburne to make any Defence or Answer to the said Articles, did Declare, That the said John Lilburne ought not thereby to escape the Justice of this House; but the said Articles, and the Offences thereby charged to have been committed by the said John Lilburne, ought thereupon to be taken as confessed: Therefore the Lords assembled in Parliament, taking the Premises into Consideration, and for that it appears by the said Articles that the said John Lilburne hath not only maliciously published several scandalous and libelous Passages of a very high Nature against the Peers of this Parliament therein particularly named, and against the Peerage of this Realm in general, but contrived, and contemptuously published, and openly at the Bar of the House delivered, certain scandalous Papers, to the high Contempt and Scandal of the Dignity, Power, and Authority of this House: All which Offences, by the peremptory Refusal of the said John Lilburne to answer or make any Defence to the said Articles, stand confessed by the said Lilburne as they are in the said Articles charged:

“It is, therefore, the said Day and Year last abovementioned, further Ordered and Adjudged, by the Lords assembled in Parliament, upon the whole Matter in the said Articles contained,

“1. That the said John Lilburne be sined to the King’s Majesty in the Sum of Two Thousand Pounds.

“2. And, That he stand and be imprisoned in The Tower of London, by the Space of Seven Years next ensuing.

“3. And further, That he, the said John Lilburne, from henceforth stand and be uncapable to bear any Office or Place, in Military or in Civil Government, in Church or Commonwealth, during his Life.”

This passage, taken from the ‘House of Lords Journal Volume 8: 17 September 1646’, and subsequently published in the Journal of the House of Lords: volume 8: 1645-1647 (1802), pp. 493-494, presents the reader with a number of interesting legal anomalies: which may well explain the attitude of the defendant. The first of which is that the entire trial appears to have been conducted in the King’s Name, much as modern day criminal trials still are, by members of the English Civil War Parliamentary faction at a time when they themselves were engaged in armed struggle with the self same monarch in whose name Lilburne had been brought to trial.

The other interesting anomaly involves the fact that at no point in the trial transcript is there any mention whatsoever of the affair for which Lilburne was originally arrested. Namely, the accusations he is reported to have made against the Earl of Manchester. Indeed, this entire tract is suggestive of the fact that Lilburne was in reality on trial first and foremost for his ideas. And in particular those ideas which he himself had previously committed to writing. His’England’s Birthright Justified‘, published in October 1645, at about the same time as he had previously been released from prison, for example, defends the rule of law against arbitrary power. In it Lilburne argues that Parliament’s own power must be limited by law to protect the rights of the individual. The author also attacks the monopolies of preaching, in the form of the Established Church and its Ministers, the Merchant Adventurers who dominated the Wool Trade, and the Stationers’ Company who controlled the printing of all published books.

The subsequent campaign to free Lilburne from prison was to lead to the establishment of the entire Leveller Movement, including the political party of the same name. Following the spreading of false rumours that the Levellers, who wanted a complete end to the Monarchy and the House of Lords, were conspiring with the Royalists to overthrow the new republican government, which had come to be dominated by the landed classes, Lilburne himself was accused of incitement. On 26 October 1649 he was brought to trial yet again. This time at the Guildhall in London, where he was charged with high treason and with inciting the Leveller mutinies within the Army.

At his trial Lilburne spoke eloquently in his own defence: ‘Sir, will it please you to hear me? and if so, by your favour thus. All the privilege for my part that I shall crave this day at your hands, is no more but that which is properly and singly the liberty of every free-born Englishman, viz. The benefit of the Laws and Liberties thereof, which by my birthright and inheritance is due unto me; the which I have fought for as well as others have done, with a single and upright heart; and if I cannot have and enjoy this, I shall leave this Testimony behind me, That I died for the Laws and Liberies of this nation; and upon this score I stand, and if I perish I perish.’

Once again his was released from prison just as he had been on 14th October, 1645, this time after being acquitted by a jury. Of further interest is the fact that during his previous trial before the Lords it had been ruled that ‘the said John Lilburne be sined to the King’s Majesty in the Sum of Two Thousand Pounds’. This refers to a fine of £2000 that he had been ordered to pay on being found guilty.

The particular point of relevance here is that following his previous release from prison in October 1645, John Bradshaw, who would himself rise to prominence as President of the High Court of Justice for the trial of King Charles I and as the first Lord President of the Council of State of the English Commonwealth, had brought a case before the Star Chamber on Lilburne’s behalf in the matter of a large sum of back pay that he should have received while serving as a Colonel in the Parliamentary Army. The sum that  Lilburne was awarded as a result of this case, which amounted to some £2,000 in compensation for his sufferings, was never paid by Parliament and appears to have been at the heart of the later decision to arrest him in the affair of the Earl of Manchester. It is interesting to note then that the money he had been owed, and the sum he would later be fined, amount to precisely the same amount.

Image credit: original Civil War pamphlet scanned by Tony Gosling

The Autonomous City by Alexander Vasudevan review – in praise of squatting

This international history makes the case for squatting as a radical alternative to neoliberal urbanisation and a shared vision of the city

Thursday 16 March 2017

In February this year squatters moved into a £14m mansion near Buckingham Palace. It was the third such luxury property occupied in a matter of weeks by members of the Autonomous Nation of Anarchist Libertarians, or Anal for short, part of a campaign to highlight the scandal of empty properties at a time when homelessness and inequality are soaring. The number of people sleeping rough in England has risen steadily for the last six years.

Alexander Vasudevan’s study is the first comprehensive attempt to reconstruct the history of squatting as “the expression of an autonomous understanding of shared city life”. Each of his eight chapters takes a specific city and charts the evolution of squatting since the radical social movements of the 1960s, showing how the occupation of buildings became a way of reimagining the city “as a space of necessity and refuge, experimentation and resistance”. As well as providing an instant solution to the need for housing, squatting was also a way to reclaim the city in the face of gentrification and urban renewal schemes that were stripping it of public spaces and displacing working-class populations.

But Vasudevan goes further, claiming that squatters were also urban pioneers who explored a new kind of lifestyle, reclaimed spaces and asserted, to use Henri Lefebvre’s phrase, a universal “right to the city”. Squats became laboratories in which people experimented with new identities and collective living. In cities across Europe and the US, squats were places “where one could build an alternative world”.

Vasudevan sees his book not merely as a dry contribution to urban history, but as celebration of the vital ideas and achievements of those squatters who dared to imagine an alternative vision of life, an alternative to the neoliberal city and the urbanisation that is still engulfing the world. His highly original argument is that the history of squatting reveals “the potential reorganisation of our cities along more collective, socially just and ecologically sustainable lines”. Using archives created by squatters themselves, documenting their evanescent experiments, Vasudevan demonstrates that “the squat was a place of collective world-making: a place to express anger and solidarity, to explore new identities and different intimacies, to experience and share new feelings, and to defy authority and live autonomously”.

His opening chapter on New York City explores how a squatting movement emerged out of tenant activism. By 1960, 30% of New York’s non-white population were living in dilapidated housing and a series of rent strikes helped to draw the community together, giving tenants the confidence to fight for improved standards. In spring 1970 a squatter movement appeared called Operation Move-In. By the summer it had placed 150 working-class families, mostly of African American or Latino background, in abandoned apartments scheduled for demolition as part of a plan to build housing for middle- and upper-income families. One parent told a reporter: “We’ve been living in horrible places with horrible people for a year. This is … a nice community.”

Initially the city responded by destroying the plumbing and fixtures in all its empty properties. But eventually Operation Move-In forced the authorities to back down and allow the squatters – who had repaired and renovated their homes – to stay. Nearly a thousand housing units were also added to the urban redevelopment plan on the Upper West Side. Operation Move-In was a success, not only winning more housing but raising the issue’s profile through publicity stunts such as a “Housing Crimes Trial” attended by 1,500 people. The movement encouraged “new ways of thinking about and inhabiting the city as a space of political action and self-organisation”.

In London, the roots of squatting go back to the immediate postwar period when war veterans and Communist party activists occupied empty properties in 1946. For a time squatters even moved into luxury flats in Duchess of Bedford House, Kensington. But it was not until the 1960s and 70s that squatting became a more widespread phenomenon. At one point, a group living in a row of derelict GLC properties on Freston Road, west London, declared independence from the UK. The Free Independent Republic of Frestonia even wrote to the UN requesting a detachment of peacekeepers to prevent their imminent eviction. The UN didn’t respond, but the publicity generated by the squatters led to negotiations with the GLC and eventually the site was given to the Notting Hill housing trust.

Vasudevan’s argument is compelling and supported by impressive research. His account takes in the “alternative self-organised community” of Christiania, established in an abandoned barracks in Copenhagen in 1971, and the Berlin pensioners who occupied their community centre which was threatened with redevelopment, as well as the vibrant scene in Amsterdam where as many as 70,000 people were squatting between 1964 and 1999. Vasudevan shows how the occupation of vacant properties became “a radical urban social movement”, shaping the recent development of many cities. By occupying and renovating derelict houses, and – as happened in Berlin’s tenement buildings – creating a whole alternative social infrastructure with cafes, day care centres, workshops, concert venues, clinics, cycle repair shops and even a children’s petting zoo, squatters provided their cities with examples of collective living and social transformation.

It is, of course, deeply ironic that this “makeshift urbanism” – the radical repurposing of defunct urban spaces to create alternative communities – has now made cities such as Berlin highly attractive to businesses and gentrifiers: revolutionary ideas reduced to urban “branding assets”. As the moneyed classes and developers move into an area, the authorities begin clearing squatters. Indeed most of the spaces Vasudevan discusses have long since been redeveloped and the occupants evicted. In part, therefore, his project is an attempt “to reconstruct and reanimate these spaces”, preserving their “alternative vision of collective city life”.

The role of squatting has changed – it’s less about the wider housing movement, more to do with diverse protest cultures
In recent years the role of squatting has changed, becoming less about the wider housing movement and more to do with diverse protest cultures, such as the anti-globalisation campaign. Vasudevan points out that in the wake of the financial crisis “a sustained and systematic attack on alternative forms of living and working has taken place in cities across Europe and North America”. As rents and house prices soar, homes have become commodities and cities have been turned into “sites of intense displacement and inequality, exploitation and poverty”. Many people have been left without adequate housing, and radical housing movements have re-emerged in Berlin, New York and Paris, as well as in Greece, Italy and Spain, where 20% of the country’s housing stock now lies empty. In London, too, the age of austerity has prompted a revival of squatting, embodied in groups such as Focus E15 in Newham and Sisters Uncut in Hackney. However, on 1 September 2012 it became for the first time a criminal offence to squat a residential building in the UK.

The implications of the legislation are poignantly illustrated by the fate of Daniel Gauntlett, who was charged under the new anti-squatting laws. He froze to death outside an empty bungalow in Aylesford in 2013. As Vasudevan’s scholarly and illuminating study shows, for today’s squatters as for their predecessors, the urgent issue of housing is part of a broader concern. For squatting – in its radical incarnation – is about the future of our cities and about how all of us, as citizens, have a right to remake them into fairer, more humane places in which to live.

• PD Smith’s most recent book, City: A Guidebook for the Urban Age, is published by Bloomsbury. The Autonomous City: A History of Urban Squatting by Alexander Vasudevan is published by Verso. To order a copy for £16.99 go to or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min. p&p of £1.99.

Sweden has just listed the entire country to stay at for free on Airbnb

From a London Eye capsule suspended 443 feet in the sky to a luxury indoor forest, you may have seen some unique listings on Airbnb over the years. Now, there’s an entire country up for grabs.

Sweden has turned its entire country into a listing on the holiday rental website.

A collaboration between Airbnb and Visit Sweden, the listing is an effort to promote the country’s “freedom to roam” principle, or “allemansrätten,” which gives people the right to freely explore all public spaces across the country.

The idea, protected by Swedish law, is that people don’t need to book accomodation to visit the country — they can just grab a tent and freely access any of the publicly owned land. Private gardens and lands under cultivation are the only exceptions, although a “do not disturb, do not destroy” rule applies.

“It’s a home with all the necessities and amenities that any great home should have,” the listing reads. “It’s a place where you can eat berries from the ground, sleep under the stars, swim in the lakes and roam freely.”

There are a number of specific locations suggested on the site, including a “Rustic Forest Retreat in Vintage Style” located in a “historic and mysterious forest in western Värmland” which “offers high quality accommodation and a memorable stay.”

“Go to bed with the midnight sky above your head and if you can’t fall asleep, try counting the stars. It usually helps!” the listing reads. “In the fall there are wild mushrooms that you’ll enjoy foraging – from August to November you’ll find a lot of delicious chanterelles on the ground.”

It adds that it is available 365 days a year, accomodates everyone, has unlimited beds, and check-in of “whenever.”

A statement from Airbnb said: “Every lake is your infinity pool, every mountaintop your granite terrace, every meadow becomes a garden and every forest a pantry filled with mushrooms and berries. Feel free to take a morning jog or bike ride across open fields or trek through challenging mountain terrain. Should you want an upgrade, you do not need to ask anyone, just find the best location that suits you and your mood.”

a Landrights campaign for Britain

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