Teachers, parents and children evicted from empty library by Gloucestershire City Council

After the case against SISTER was adjourned in October, a Gloucester County Court judge has granted possession of the building to the county council. Credit: SISTER

Squatting education campaigners are set to be evicted from an empty historic building in Gloucestershire. 

Teachers, parents and children have been occupying the Stroud Spiritualist Church, a former city library, since August 2023.

A recent judgement means Stroud in Internationalist Solidarity Together for Earth Repairs (SISTER) must stop using the building for film screenings, political workshops and talks.

SISTER say they welcome any move that places buildings back into the community, but they have serious doubts Gloucestershire County Council will make use of it once they leave. 

SISTER have been using the building to organise a 'summer school' and donations-based community cafe. Credit: SISTER

“We’ve been speaking to one of the county councillors who are in support of our occupation who shared their concerns about the honesty of this promise, saying that they have experience of GCC running similar schemes which have been less than effective,” said a member of SISTER.

“They say the council made the process so difficult to find that no groups applied, then saying no one wanted the building and selling it off to private developers.”

The former library has been closed to the public since the start of 2023, and Gloucestershire County Council (GCC) has a lease for the building.

SISTER claim that despite initial offers from Gloucestershire Council to negotiate on the future of the project, they then ignored several attempts to begin this process of dialogue.

SISTER claims there are too many empty buildings across Gloucestershire Credit: SISTER

Simon Pickering, former Stroud District Councillor of 20 years, said the council’s message suggests "'We don’t want bright, dynamic young people in our county.’”

All costs for running the building must be paid by the council according to the County Court judgement. 

Those responsible were told by the judge to think deeply about the community’s concerns around empty buildings.

A Gloucestershire County Council spokesperson said the group have been occupying the property without permission.

SISTER are concerned the building will end up with private developers who won't consider it's potential for the community. Credit: SISTER

The council will now be offering it “to community organisations" through a "transparent bid application and assessment process.” 

The council also said it does not have hundreds of empty buildings in Gloucestershire and that the number of empty properties the authority owns varies.

Empty buildings may be pending demolition, they may no longer be needed for council purposes, pending sale or redevelopment; and some may be undergoing refurbishment to provide updated facilities for other council services.

Credit: Carmelo Garcia, Local Democracy Reporting Service.