Archive for March, 2009

New Squat Occupied

Posted on March 31, 2009. Filed under: Housing News |

At 0900 hrs on Tuesday 31 March 2009 members of JNC occupied the Beechcourt Hotel, 201 Bristol Road Edgbaston Birmingham.

The 21 bedroom hotel has had a checkered past over the years. It has been empty for several months having had its licensed removed by Birmingham City Council. Regular police attendances to fights, allegations of being used for immoral purposes, massive debts and nuisance to local residents all played a part in the hotel being abandoned.

Local resident’s tell of noise nuisance, burning of car tyres and plastic, dumping of rubbish and the illegal cutting down of trees as just some of the complaints.

The hotel with a vast area of land at the rear comprising of a lake complete with ducks, geese and fish has been run down over a long period of time. The 21 bedrooms once home for Birmingham’s homeless now consists of empty rooms, a damaged and crumbling building, and rubbish strewn gardens to the rear.

JNC intend to carry out a clean up operation put the grounds to more sympathetic use and home people off the streets of Birmingham in a clean safe welcoming environment.

The owner has been contacted and negotiations are on going to ensure the property is put to a proper use.

Local residents will be notified of the occupation and ensured that our intentions are in the best interests of the local community and the building and grounds.

Anyone wishing to pop in with ideas or suggestions is more than welcome. We are in need of anyone able and willing to assist with the clean up of the gardens and entrance at the rear which are an eyesore to local residents.

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VIDEO LINK CRASHES – An apology.

Posted on March 27, 2009. Filed under: Housing News |

We apologise to viewers wishing to see the video links to the evening mail article yesterday.

Due to a massive number of viewers the system crashed for some hrs yesterday evening, this situation has been rectified and the videos can now be viewed.

Thanks to all our supporters and readers of the evening mail for offers of help and support.

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Email Recieved

Posted on March 26, 2009. Filed under: Housing News |

We have  re-produced (unedited) an email received by JNC today. A copy of which has been forwarded to WCCC :

For Martin Pratley of Warwickshire County Cricket Club (WCCC) and to whom ever it may concern,

I am going to say sorry right at the start and apologies that this is likely to be a long one as I am on my soapbox and ranting again.

I was at court yesterday when WCCC obtained legal approval for possession for a property on the Pershore Road squatted by a group called “Justice Not Crisis” (justicenotcrsis.wordpress.com). The court has now given WCCC forthwith possession. The club also achieved costs of around £4,500 against a homeless man, John Willetts, who from his testimony spent 6 weeks sleeping rough in a city centre car park before becoming a squatter. The cricket club also continue to manage as a landlord other nearby properties along with pursuing their master plan for a major redevelopment scheme.

At court I was struck by two things. First, how the cricket club appear to be sleep walking into a dispute presumably due to the legal advice they must be receiving. Their legal representative repeated, probably some five times, during the hearing that as the owner of the property there was no legal argument to stop the club retrieving possession. The second point picked up now by judges on all the occasions that I have now attended court in the presence of Justice Not Crisis is that of the non intimidatory, extreme politeness even helpfulness of the packed court room. Any housing officer with experience of squatters quickly learn that they are normally considerably different from the eviction of tenants and how it is a fatal mistake to even attend court in say a white shirt that will miraculously attract fountain pen ink splats – usually across your back so you only realise that yet another shirt is ruined sometime after the normally fairly threatening court event. On all occasions you are made to feel cast as a sort of pantomime villain.

Given the current legislation, unless something comes up like preventing nuclear war or some major public health issue, it is unlikely that a court will give anything other than possession back to the legal owner. – no one mentioned and best to ignore the rat infestation of these properties that occupying may limit?

Surely the original request for dialogue from JNC with the cricket club to be paid for the “use and occupation” rather than “rent” of these premises until they are due to be demolished would have sounded more attractive to the club than the present situation?

Regarding public order issues, I have viewed a video (now posted on “U tube” for public examination) of a situation where it seems that possession of a property, presumably by cricket ground employees, was attempted without a valid warrant. It ends with the police arriving and I understand this effected the withdraw of the cricket ground personnel from continuing in their endeavour. Having looked at this video I suspect some credit should be given to the police who attended despite their inexplicable insistence that the apparent victims should stop filming! Gandhi said “make the injustice visible.”

There have been comments made to me that suggest the local housing benefit fraud investigation team should look into some of the cricket grounds properties regarding “giro drops”. But possibly more serious is what is best diplomatically described as the accompanying of some tenants by the landlords designated yet unofficial sub agents when benefit entitlement cheques are cashed. I hope the Private Tenants Rights Department take an interest if any tenant intimidation is brought to their attention. It was good for housing workers to be able to identify Mr Steve Udal who attended court and interesting that the other acquaintance of the cricket club, Mr Anthony Smith, seemed to be unable to attend as he was already detained by her majesty for other matters.

I understand the cricket grounds master plan is to access some £20 million local authority administered loan. This will allow them to manage there intended redevelopment and expansion, presumably ensuring that Birmingham continues with a venue which can accommodate the commercially lucrative test matches. The proposal as I understand it will also include a substantial hotel and other commercial opportunities. Local opposition to the plan includes all the expected concerns over crowds, lighting etc. but also notably some element of compulsory purchase to those who resist selling. I would expect some community planning gain will be obtainable somewhere along the line as well as public “consultation?” Interestingly Sports England have objected to the clubs proposals.

It maybe becoming urgent for constructive communication between these two parties (JNC and the cricket club) though mediation if necessary if the cricket club will not enter into any form of direct dialogue. Ironically I think this could substantially help improve the cricket club image as a responsible landlord as well as help both redevelopment consultation and local harmony as well as preventing this becoming an argument between the cricket loving Pimms drinkers (myself not applicable) and the army of the great unwashed (Also not applicable). If things continue to spiral into impending lack of control and conflict.

I suspect the cricket ground’s actions are consistent with a pattern or flavour of management – even their proposed High court action (rather than county court) with the huge expenses and lack of seeming concern for social justice or locals will I suspect cost them dearly in the long run and sadly set the pattern of things to come. Crazy for a business or sport to wish to side step direct dialogue and hide behind their impressive legal shields. Not only the local community but all of Birmingham and indeed cricket itself looks likely to end up cheated if the tactic of “war, war is preferred to jaw, jaw”. Certainly an opportunity to build bridges and possibly help some of Birmingham vulnerable homeless people will all just be lost. I doubt that loyalty, integrity or basic fair play will be likely with this type of bad management as the can of worms gets opened. Surely that simply is just not playing cricket! Though again what is likely to become remembered is the bad behaviour resisting sheriffs, bailiffs and police naturally portray…… so different to the stead fast dignified silence that meets the judges decisions that I have witnessed now repeatedly in JNC’s regards.

As this is such a long rant , perhaps I should pass back advanced thanks from JNC to all the other professional housing staff and others colleagues in the Thames Valley helping give email benefit advice and expertise for social justice issues outside your normal working activities. Special thanks to any staff from Oxford Housing Associations who have made donations of bedding etc. I understand these are being delivered soon – and thanks for the assistance of the soon coming ex Simon House worker with such a level of experience of helping rough sleepers get back into the system. For obvious reasons given John Lines policies local housing workers look forward to this years Halloween party when disguises can be worn once again.

I hope this helps also the cricket club staff who attended court looking puzzled as they try to build cases to identify “persons unknown” and target them for the self inflicted growing bills for all this – well done the legal advisers again………. clear to see how they make their bucks. While you “hide behind” your lawyers and take down names others must by necessity “hide behind persons unknown” as your legal representative put it at court. No wonder the rest of us do not stand a chance involved in these social issues. Whether we give addiction advice or take action against anti social behaviour etc. – however if helpful and if it is acceptable to JNC I could be used as an intermediary between the cricket club and JNC if Mr Pratley has not got the balls to communicate with you direct rather than wanting to identify me directly after the court hearing and inquiring if my interest was as a “person unknown”. My address is known to senior staff at your local housing community association who I am sure will let me know about any legitimate inquiry and also to JNC. But I give you fair warning contact me via your current legal advisers you can expect a bill – as we try to put back together the reality of the sharp end from the victims perspective…… My sympathy, if there is any here, is with Mr Willetts!

For once coming slightly out of the shadows, mindful that as in previous cases involving JNC advocates have been then selected as named defendants! – see Firebird history.

Mark Davies – Housing consultant.

(Thanks to all the Boy George fans who purchased the book, Soapboxtraders.com).

.

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WARWICKSHIRE CRICKET CLUB PROPERTIES BENEFIT FRAUD?

Posted on March 25, 2009. Filed under: Housing News |

At a hearing before District Judge Ingram at Birmingham County Court, today, Warwickshire County Cricket Club where granted a forthwith possession order for 318 Pershore Road.

JNC defended the action stating that they had a tenancy granted to them from an Agent of the Cricket Club.

It transpires that the person who granted the tenancy was not an agent for 318 Pershore Road but did work with a Tenant of the Cricket Club by signing agreements and collecting rent payments and Housing Benefit at 322 and 330 Pershore Road.

The Court heard that Stephen Graham Udal, a Director of Boxer Cleaning Ltd Nr Bromsgove let 322 and 330 Pershore Road from WCCC and allowed MR Anthony Smith (Who resided at 322 ) to manage the properties in his absence.

It was alleged that no payments of rent had not been recieved for some time for these properties. The tenancies were described as a “sham” by the Judge.

The matter will now be referred to the benefits agency as housing benefit has been claimed on the properties. WCCC stated they have no knowledge of Mr Smith despite him holding keys to all 3 properties and to the Office within the building.

Mr Udal who was in court declined to comment but in his court statement he said that the premises were rented to his company to house cleaning staff who worked at WCCC. Since September 2008 Boxer Cleaning Services Ltd no longer provided the service to WCCC and Mr Udal had let the rooms to other people. He stated that 3 people were resident in each property.

JNC are considering their options on an appeal to the European Court of human rights on the right of every person to a home. The Judge commented ” Every person who wants a home should have a right to one”

JNC will resist the eviction order when Bailiffs arrive, as we reported yesterday WCCC don’t normally bother with the next legal stage choosing to send contractors to attempt an illegal eviction instead.

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CRICKET CLUB ATTEMPT ILLEGAL EVICTION

Posted on March 23, 2009. Filed under: Housing News |

Warwickshire County Cricket Ground staff and contractors force entry into 312 Pershore Road ignoring Public Order Act Laws and squatters rights.

At the first court eviction hearing with WCCC, Justice Not Crisis did not defend the action against 3 of the 4 properties held by them. The  Judge ordered forthwith possession on those properties.

The next stage in the eviction process is to apply for a warrant and return with Bailiffs who are then empowered to take possession of the property and remove occupants.

WCCC obviously think they are beyond the law  as the arrived at the properties and smashed down the door to 312 Pershore Road which was occupied at the time. JNC called the Police who informed WCCC staff that they were acting illegally. The staff then left and the building was re-secured by our members.

We have photographed and video recorded the incident and are currently considering taking legal action against WCCC. The video links are at the foot of this page.
The second Court hearing is scheduled for 25th March 1140 hrs at the County Courts 33 Bull Street Birmingham.

JNC intend to defend the action on 318 Pershore Road as an agent acting on behalf of WCCC has granted tenancies on this and another 2 properties.

Supporters are welcome to attend we will be meeting outside the Court building at 1115 hrs.

Videos on youtube:
Video 1
Video 2
Video 3
Birmingham Mail Video

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GOVERNMENT TELLS COUNCILS TO USE POWERS TO SEIZE EMPTY HOMES

Posted on March 17, 2009. Filed under: Housing News |

The Birmingham Mail, 17th March 2009 carries the story “FURY OF BECKETT HOME PLAN SNATCH”

Referring to Margaret Beckett’s (MP, Housing Minister) plans to force Councils to seize homes empty for 6 months or more and let the Council manage them.

This would see some of the 72,000+  currently empty homes being used  to house people from waiting lists or off  the streets. A PROPOSAL JUSTICE NOT CRISIS WELCOME AND FULLY SUPPORT.

The Conservative party have slammed the idea, stating that many homes are empty due to bereavement or whilst people wait for the housing market to improve so they can sell at higher prices.

No surprise there then whilst people sleep on the streets or in overcrowded conditions the Conservatives worry how much profit people will lose.

Not only are they callous but they don’t understand the policy (They are Conservatives tho) it will not give councils the ownership of the homes just the right to manage them and use them for people who need them. Homes for the Homeless! not something the Conservatives believe in apparently.

Warwickshire County Cricket Club take note 3 of your properties that we are currently squatting have been empty for 9 years.

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JNC WIN FIRST ROUND IN BATTLE WITH CRICKET CLUB

Posted on March 12, 2009. Filed under: Housing News |

Justice Not Crisis appeared in Birmingham County Court today where Warwickshire County Cricket Club attempted to gain possession of their 4 squatted properties on the Pershore Road.

Appearing before a District Judge JNC successfully established that there was a case to answer in that JNC  had an implied licence (Tenancy agreement) at 318 Pershore Road. The Judge heard evidence that a tenancy agreement had been signed at 3 properties on Pershore Road that are owned by WCCC.

JNC offered no defence to the claim for possession of 310,312 and 314 Pershore and the Judge ordered possession of the properties to WCCC forthwith.

JNC successfully applied for an adjournment of several weeks. Despite opposition to this by WCCC the Judge ordered the case to be re-listed for Directions in 3 weeks time (Date to be confirmed) and then sent for trial.

These properties have been empty for some years and we suggest should be used for short term tenancies whilst the redevelopment plans are considered for the expansion of the Cricket Ground. Attempts to negotiate with the Cricket Club have been ignored by them despite them owning at least three further properties in the same location which are tenanted on short term lease.

JNC will rigorously defend the action by WCCC as there are currently 9 homeless people housed in these properties.

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FIREBIRD UPDATE

Posted on March 9, 2009. Filed under: Housing News |

Clearance work has commenced on the site of the Firebird Pub contractors have started to prepared the site for the demolition of the building. Optima Community Association who are finalising the purchase of the land have produced plans for 30 new socially rented flats and houses on the site. This is welcome news and a major victory in our campaign to see more socially rented properties  in Birmingham. After 5 yrs empty and a 16 week squat finally the site will be used for a proper purpose.

JNC reported that we had instructed our Solicitors to commence Appeal proceedings against the costs order applied for by the owners of the Firebird Pub.  We can now report that Solicitors acting for the owners, concerned at the prospect of an appeal, have agreed to make application to the Court to cancel the costs order against JNC, in return JNC have agreed to not appeal to the High Court and have offered to return occupancy of the Firebird immediately to save the owner costs involved with instructing Bailiffs to take possession.

The owner arrived at the Firebird at 915 am today and the Firebird was formally handed back. The Police were in attendance, we don’t know why they have no authority in these matters whatsoever.

JN (Warwick) LTD have informed us the site will be boarded up today.

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BBC POLITICS SHOW RETURNS

Posted on March 6, 2009. Filed under: Housing News |

The BBC Politics shows returns for a third visit to update on JNC and the plight of homeless people in Birmingham.

The show, which will be shown on BBC at 12 noon on Sunday 8th March 2009,covers the story of Neil and Sarah who have been waiting for years to move from their 5th Floor Council flat to more suitable accommodation. They are currently sleeping on the living room floor of a friends 2 bedroom house which is overcrowded.

Neil who served in the Army in Iraq was medically discharged after a traumatic incident andsuffers from severe mental health problems as a result of the trauma. He has medical priority for a move as he has attempted to jump off the balcony of his high rise flat on numerous occasions and Birmingham City Council say they are not a priority.

The shows updates on JNC’S latest squat and also covers the story of John a person living at the JNC squat since he was discovered sleeping rough in Dale End Car Park, Birmingham City Centre. John highlights the problems rough sleepers face in getting access to accommodation and benefits in Birmingham. He also tells of a young couple aged 17 who have been sleeping rough on the streets for several weeks and are now moving into the Pershore Road squat.

 

PERSHORE ROAD SQUATS

Work has continued at the 4 houses currently occupied by JNC to clear rubbish and make essential repairs. We now have 10 bedrooms available for occupation and more homeless people are due to move in this weekend.

The Warwickshire County Cricket Club have issued proceeding in the High Courts of Justice to evict us from the 4 properties they own. The hearing is scheduled for 11am Thursday 12th March 2009.

Justice not crisis have consulted our Solicitors and will defend the court action.

Anyone wishing to offer support should meet outside the Court Building : Priory Law Courts Bull Street Birmingham at 1030 am Thursday 12th March 2009.

A Big thank you to our readers

We would like to thank our supporters and readers for your continued support we are amazed to say that our hits have today passed the 100,000 mark with nearly 2,500 hits today alone, not our busiest day but very close.

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