A GROUP of education campaigners who have been squatting in a former Gloucestershire library are set to be evicted after losing their court battle with Shire Hall.

Stroud in Internationalist Solidarity Together for Earth Repairs (SISTER) occupied the empty Old County Library in Lansdown, known as the Stroud Spiritualist Church, in August.

The church closed to the public at the start of the year and Gloucestershire County Council (GCC) has a lease for the building.

But the group which is made up of teachers, parents and children decided to occupy the building.

Since then, it has run dozens of educational events like film screenings, political workshops and talks along with a donation based community cafe.

However, they were served with court papers and after the case was adjourned last month a a Gloucester County Court judge has now granted a possession order for the building to the county council.

But all costs must be paid by the County Council and Shire Hall bosses were told that they needed to think deeply about the community’s concerns about empty buildings.

The group claims that despite initial offers from the County Council to negotiate on the future of the project, they then ignored several attempts to begin this process of dialogue – instead taking SISTER to court in a process that was initially ruled as “unfair” by the judge due to the unlawfully short notice period for the hearing.

SISTER say that although they welcome any move that places buildings into community use, they lack trust that the council will follow through.

“We’ve been speaking to one of the county councillors who are in support of our occupation who shared their concerns about the honesty of this promise, saying that they have experience of GCC running similar schemes which have been less than effective,” a member of SISTER said.

“They say the council made the process so difficult to find that no groups applied, then saying no one wanted the building and selling it off to private developers.”

Simon Pickering, former Stroud District Councillor of 20 years, asked what message does their eviction give to young intelligent entrepreneurs.

“People wanting to stay in the county to further their and others education which would help preserve unused old buildings, help deliver the county council’s objective to make Gloucestershire the greenest county.

“Their message looks like it is: ‘we don’t want bright dynamic young people in our county’”

A Gloucestershire County Council spokesperson said the group have been occupying the property without permission so they made an application to the court to obtain possession of the property. “We can now secure vacant possession of the building and will offer it to community organisations to use via a transparent bid application and assessment process, up until our lease runs out in 2027,” they said.

The council says it does not have hundreds of empty buildings in Gloucestershire.

And explained the number of empty properties the authority owns varies and may be empty pending demolition for either redevelopment or clearance of the site to make way for new infrastructure projects; they may no longer be needed for council purposes, pending sale or redevelopment; and some may be undergoing refurbishment to provide updated facilities for other council services.