AN EMPTY historic building in the centre of Stroud has been taken over by an action group claiming squatters rights.

This local group, known as SISTER (Stroud in Internationalist Solidarity Together for Earth Repairs), has announced that it is occupying the empty Old County Library - otherwise known as the Stroud Spiritualist Church - in Lansdown.

The church closed to the public at the beginning of the year and Gloucestershire County Council currently has a lease for the building.

The protest group is made up of youth, teachers and parents amongst others, and is linked with a network of communities across the UK and abroad as part of PRALER (the Planet Repairs Action Learning Educational Revolution).

Members said that they have reclaimed the space as the SISTER Summer School to hold community-led educational events.

For example, they will be hosting local community campaigns such as the youth-led School is a Crime Scene which aims to challenge the what they believe is 'mis-education in our schools'.

A spokesperson for SISTER said: "Empty buildings are unjustifiable during a cost-of-living crisis, a housing and rental crisis, energy crises, climate and ecological crises.

"That UK public services have and continue to be systematically underfunded, dismantled, and privatised whilst CEO's hand out record profits to stakeholders, all the while the education system is failing to equip young people and communities with practical tools to solve our problems. 

"Gloucestershire County Council are failing to effectively address any of these issues in a way that empowers the local community and, in many cases, is actively making them worse.

"We're taking matters into our own hands and providing the education we need to make the world a better place."

SISTER member Robin added: “In unreasonable times, reasonable action is the only option. 

"Reclaiming this space at a time when we're so disconnected and seemingly unable to support each other is a reasonable act of commitment to the future of our community.

"Through the Summer School we're reclaiming our right to the practical education of running our own lives. 

"I was born and raised in Stroud, this is my home and I'm filled with hope to welcome the community and together build a more beautiful and powerful us.”

A spokesperson for Gloucestershire County Council said: “We have been made aware of the group’s occupation and will be taking advice as to the appropriate action to secure the building.

"We have a lease for this building, which is currently being used as a space for works associated with the move to a new library in the town.”