Oxford University has said it hopes to obtain a possession order on the former power station in Osney “as soon as possible”, due to safety concerns after the Iffley Open House (IOH) project moved into the building on Sunday.
Around 20 homeless people, accompanied by ten volunteers, claimed squatter’s rights on the property upon their arrival, following their eviction from the Volkswagen garage owned by Wadham College in which they had been living.
The group stated that they wanted to “open up a dialogue” with the Said Business School, which, according to reports, is seeking to develop the former power station. The building was previously part of the Physics Faculty at Oxford, and has been described by the group as having been left “unutilized” during the seven years for which it has been derelict.
In a statement given yesterday the University of Oxford said: “The Old Power Station is used to store thousands of items from the collections of the Museum of the History of Science and the Pitt Rivers Museum, and a project team has been working on these collections in a separate part of the building.
“For some time we have prevented our staff from entering the part of the building which has been occupied by Iffley Open House because of a number of safety concerns, including the risk of falling masonry.
“We will therefore be seeking an interim possession order as soon as possible, out of concern for the safety of the members of Iffley Open House.
“We are very sympathetic to the plight of these homeless people who need somewhere safe to live and we will continue to speak to their representatives about how to resolve the situation.”
In a press release IOH said they hoped “to stay for two months, and work with local residents to create a safe space which is just as successful as the original Iffley Open House”.
IOH squatters were given notice from Wadham two weeks ago to the effect that they would have to leave the old VW garage owned by the college. This notice came despite the group’s claim that in January the leaseholders of the ground floor of the building, the Mid-Counties Co-Operative, had negotiated a lease to allow the squatters to stay until 10 April.
Sandra Phillips, an IOH volunteer, said: “Ultimately, this is about providing housing for those who need it most – and we truly believe that the residents of Oxford believe in this cause as much as we do”