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Harold Wood cemetery squatters just want to ‘grow potatoes’

PUBLISHED: 11:06 28 July 2016 | UPDATED: 16:10 28 July 2016

Mohamed Omer founding member of the Gardens of Peace cemetery with the graves behind him.

Mohamed Omer founding member of the Gardens of Peace cemetery with the graves behind him.

Archant

Trespassers who have built a wooden campsite on land earmarked for a cemetery have said they are “just growing flowers and potatoes”.

Bits of wood and broken doors trespessers are using to make shelters on the land at Oak Farm, Harold Wood.Bits of wood and broken doors trespessers are using to make shelters on the land at Oak Farm, Harold Wood.

The Recorder visited Oak Farm, Maylands Field, Harold Wood on Wednesday and spoke with several members of the commune who said they plan to stay as long as possible.

The squatters were jubilant as they celebrated two members renewing their wedding vows, dancing to music from a sound system.

John, the groom, said: “None of us have any violence about us. We will stay. We are not here to inconvenience anyone. There’s a bit of land here not being used, we are sick of genetically modified products.”

But, despite declaring themselves peace-loving, a member of the group made an aggressive comment when initially approached by the Recorder.

A shelter made by trespassers on the land at Oak Farm, Harold Wood.A shelter made by trespassers on the land at Oak Farm, Harold Wood.

The land is owned by Gardens of Peace, which runs two Muslim cemeteries in Redbridge. The charity hopes to gain planning permission to turn the Harold Wood site into a 10,000 plot burial space. The result of an appeal into the application is ongoing.

Charity trustees Farouk Ismail and Mohamed Omer said the organisation has a court order to evict the trespassers, who arrived last week, but it is yet to be enforced by authorities.

Mr Ismail said: “There are about 20 to 30 [people]. It looks like a mini Glastonbury. They are not what you might call Gypsy travellers, they are young people.

“They said we mean no harm, but they are playing with the water mains, spraying it at each other.

“I had half a mind to put on my wellington boots and head down.”

Wedding guest and squatter Nana, 30, said he was involved with the Occupy London anti-capitalist protests which ran between October 2011 and June 2012.

“I’m not paying London rents, it’s a p*** take,” he said: “People at the top are eating off us.”

John continued: “Our project is about self sustainability, eco-friendly, all we are about is not being a part of that up there. We are good people.

“Everybody needs to communicate more, love more.

“We are all city kids that could be in Hackney doing negative things. We are just growing flowers and potatoes.”

Mr Ismail hopes authorities act quickly as members of the community have already contacted him to complain about noise. A spokeswoman for Havering Council said: “As it is private land, the only advice we can offer is to seek legal advice.”


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