PROTESTERS who have been camping outside a Yorkshire cathedral for almost two months have been implored to “move on” by a senior cleric who said he wanted to see them leave by the new year.
The Dean of Sheffield, the Very Rev Peter Bradley, who is legally responsible for the city’s cathedral and its churchyard, said the so-called Occupy Sheffield movement had set up camp illegally.
According to members of the movement, they have no plans to move the ramshackle assortment of tents on the church forecourt, and have warned clergy that they could still be there next Christmas.
Yesterday the group also claimed that it had “taken possession” of the currently empty and derelict Salvation Army citadel in Sheffield city centre, and said the building had been renamed Citadel of Hope.
The Dean said yesterday: “I would say it’s a new year, we are moving into a new year and that’s a new beginning. It really is time to move on. I don’t think they are serving the community well at the moment. As long as they are illegally encamping then I have to say move on.”
Rev Bradley has already met with the protesters on several occasions and has made repeated calls for them to leave the paved open space in front of the medieval church.
The Dean said he believed that the protest was in danger of “interfering” with the work of the cathedral, including its Archer Project which aims to help Sheffield’s homeless.
But protesters said they had no intention of leaving the cathedral and were making preparations for a gathering of Occupy protesters from across the country in Sheffield next month.
A campaign spokesman said the Salvation Army citadel would be the focal point for that gathering and said its “occupation” of the building had taken place under Section 6 of the Criminal Law Act 1977, otherwise known as “squatters’ rights”.
The Occupy Sheffield spokesman said: “The building has lain idle since 1999, and has been open and unsecured for over two months. Occupy Sheffield will make the building safe and secure and will then open it for public use.
“Occupy Sheffield will be inviting any community groups that have lost the ability to pay for a space due to funding cuts to come and make use of the building. The original Occupy Sheffield encampment outside Sheffield Cathedral will remain in situ. People wishing to join the residential encampment at Sheffield Cathedral should continue to do so.
It was not clear last night who currently owns the citadel building in Cross Burgess Street, or whether any action will be taken to try and remove the Occupy protesters.
The Occupy Leeds protest was also continuing last night.
Jeremy Cook, 26, a mechanical engineer from Kirkstall, said he had been involved in the movement situated just yards from Leeds railway station since its inception five weeks ago.
He said the Leeds movement was strong with around 10 to 30 people on the site at any one time and there were no plans to abandon the site when the weather became colder.
“We have had gusts of wind at more than 70mph,” he said.
Another protester, who would only describe himself as “AP” – a 34-year-old DJ from Huddersfield said: “I have been involved here since its inception though I am a camp visitor. I don’t know what the issues are in Sheffield but if there are problems then it will only mean that the camp moves on elsewhere.
“We are going to stay here in Leeds as long as we can whether it is six weeks, six months or six decades. You can’t stop an idea.”
Asked about relations between Leeds Council he said the authorities were “fine” and there was no pressure to leave.