THE LAND IS OURS
The Residents' Darkest Days
A bailiff learns about the strength of feelings on Holtsfield.
Soon after the decision to appeal to the House of Lords, Elitestone offered Holtsfield to the council for 3.2 million, despite the fact that two independent surveyors had valued the site at approximately 320,000.
Not surprisingly, the council declined.
A second Neighbourhood Renewal Assessment by the city council's Environmental Health Department was concluded and found the chalets unfit for habitation on water and sewerage grounds. Again this is hardly surprising given the effective blight of uncertainty which has hovered over residents' attempts to improve their properties for many years.
This continuing climate of pressure and intimidation has made it increasingly difficult to have any realistic negotiations between Elitestone and the residents.
Some of the residents have put forward individual offers for their plots (which have been ignored), as well as entered talks with a housing association as a group to look into the possibilities of a communal purchase package, such as the formation of a housing cooperative or the setting up of a 'shared ownership' scheme in cooperation with the housing association.
In early September 1995, the residents arranged a meeting with Tim Jones, chaired by a professional conflict negotiator, in another attempt to resolve the situation and buy the Field. Sadly it failed.
In the meantime Elitestone had applied for possession warrants for four of the chalets.
In response the residents set up an emergency network and when, on October 19th,1995, the county court bailiff arrived, he was met by more than 300 local supporters and residents. The bailiff served the notices and then withdrew.
Following the determined response of the residents, the High Court sheriff was appointed to carry out the evictions without giving a fixed date to the residents, but assuring them that the evictions would not be carried out until after 9am when the children would be in school.
However at 7.30am on November 22, 1995, the sheriff, his men and a private 'security' firm appointed by Elitestone, arrived on Holtsfield and immediately proceeded with the eviction in an unduly aggressive manner and in the presence of all the children.
The Holtsfield network was able to rally about 200 supporters, including councillors, the local vicar and the press, within virtually minutes. This became the blackest day for Holtsfield so far hopefully never to be repeated.
The first two of the chalets were brutally cleared and boarded up by the security firm, but the third chalet, surrounded by supporters and the local vicar and some residents barricaded within, became the scene of a desperate battle for the next few hours.
Even experienced journalists were shocked by the aggression of the 'security' firm, who tried to smash down doors with sledgehammers and threw people out of windows.
Some hours later, on the advice of the South Wales Police who were present in a monitoring role videoeing the events, the sheriff withdrew his men when it became clear that the residents and their supporters just would not move.
In their wake they left shattered homes, shattered emotions and extremely upset people, especially the children who even now are trying to come to terms with the scars from that day. For many of the children and adults, the term 'bailiff' has become synonymous with 'bogeyman'.
One day later, it became public that the Dandelion Trust, a charity dedicated to 'Care, Creativity and Conservation' had put in a 500,000 bid in an attempt to safeguard the Field and the future of its families. But after 'seriously considering the offer' Elitestone withdrew from the negotiations some weeks later and this new hope for the residents also collapsed.
Fired by their anger over the evictions, the residents now directed part of their campaign against Barclays Bank which in contravention of its own stated environmental policy has been funding the persistently lossmaking Elitestone from the outset.
The residents began picketing the bank's regional branches, handing out leaflets, withdrawing accounts and encouraging others to do so as well. They also had a sympathetic meeting with Gareth George, the Wales director of Barclays Bank, but to no satisfactory end, even though Barclays holds a legal charge over Holtsfield.
For further details of this continuing campaign, please read the page 'Profit and Homelessness'.
In January 1996 the residents were granted leave to appeal to the House of Lords with regard to the case of Dai Morris who has also been granted legal aid for this hearing.
In the meantime Elitestone applied to evict more residents, but were frustrated by the County Court Recorder Judge Bidder, who decided not to hear any further cases until the outcome of the House of Lords hearing.
In Summer 1996, in a final attempt to resolve the situation out of court, the group of residents made Elitestone a formal offer of 350,000 for the Field (based on the independent valuations). It should be remembered here, that Elitestone originally bought Holtsfield for around 175,000. Elitestone declined the offer.
The residents have now been given March 20, 1997, as the provisional date for the hearing at the House of Lords.
We feel so passionately about our situation that we have decided to follow in the great tradition of public marches and plan to walk from Holtsfield to Westminster to hand over the legal papers for this final hearing on the plight of the future of our community.
This is one last legal recourse. We need your support. If you can help please see the Action Page.
Help preserve Holtsfield for our children.
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