WE MEAN BUSINESS: Squatters with a cause occupy café

An update on the occupation of 34 Broadway Market which Hackney Independent fully supports.

Hackney Gazette frontpage: Thursday December 1, 2005

WE MEAN BUSINESS: Squatters with a cause occupy café

Campaigners have staged a midnight takeover of a popular greasy spoon to save it from demolition.

The self-styled ‘squatters with a cause’ invaded the former Francesca’s café in Broadway Market hours before workmen were due to gut it on Monday morning.

Calling themselves the ‘Save Broadway Market Campaign’, the highly organised group say the move is part of their quest to save the area from delopers.

The Gazette gained access to the building and found members were stocked up with food and water, keeping warm with electric heaters and even had a TV set up inside.

Group spokesman Aruther Shuter claimed up to 50 people were working in shifts to protect the building and would stay there for six months under ‘squatters rights’.

He blames a string of Broadway Market business closures on the cheap sell-off of public properties by a cash-strapped Hackney Council in 2000 and 2001.

“We want to stop the rot and prevent developers from taking businesses and homes from the people of Hackney,” Mr Shuter told the Gazette.

The café was run by Tone Platia until he was evicted in July when his lease run out and it closed.

My Shuter sawys the group is demanding that his business is hand back.

“Tony was one of the first victims of the council sell off,” he said. “Francesca’s was a meeting point for the community who lived here all their lives.”

“He had a business for 31 years and we want him back in here,” he added.

“This is just the first phase of the battle – we won’t stop until the truth comes out and we take back all these properties from developers.”

Manchester-based Thermatic Building Services Ltd owns the building and was due to replace the café with a new eatery and flats.

That company is owned by Market House Ltd, which is controlled by property developer Dr. Roger Wratten. He owns a number of properties in Broadway Market.

Dr. Wratten would not comment on the lasest row, but Thermatic’s managing director David Oakley told the Gazette he was taking legal advice.

“It’s all going to be developed in keeping with the theme of the area and it will be an asset to it,” he said.

Hackney’s deputy mayor, Cllr Jessica Crowe, explained that properties on the street were sold when the council was “under legally-binding directions from the Government”.

“These required the council to sell surplus property to get it out of the financial crisis that developed when it was under no overall control,” she said.

“All local authorities must by law get market value when they sell property.”

Hackney police have confirmed they are aware of the situation and that officers have been incontact with the protestors and owner.