The bill to evict campaigners from a community garden and guard the premises could rise to £1million according to protestors.
Lewisham council spent £105,000 evicting residents who were occupying the Old Tidemill garden in Deptford on October 29, saying this money could have been used to house more than 20 homeless families in temporary accommodation for a year.
But campaigners claim the final figure for the Old Tidemill affair could go up to £1million of taxpayers money if the cost of guards who patrol the garden 24 hours a day is factored in.
A spokeswoman for the Save Reginald Save Tidemill group (ST) said: “The ongoing contract with private security firm County Enforcement is a black hole for public money, with the council paying for up to 60 guards, plus dog handling teams, on the site 24/7.
“We want the council to reveal the true cost of this, which we estimate in the month since the eviction will have topped £1million.”
The council gave the Old Tidemill Garden Group temporary use of the garden in 2012 after the Old Tidemill School moved to a new building on Deptford High Street. Residents formed a community around the garden organising events where families.
The group opposed development plans by Family Mosaic and Sherry Green, passed by the council in 2017, to build on the garden.
The ST spokeswoman said: “A redesign of the plans, to build around Reginald House and Tidemill Garden, would have cost around £50,000 and delayed building by around a year. But instead the council is spending many times this on security, and continuing to refuse to go back to the drawing board, in the face of wide community opposition to the scheme.
“It was spent on an eviction where the council sent in more than 100 bailiffs to force out the campaign occupation, without any negotiation. “This money would be far better spent on redesigning the scheme and providing support and accommodation for those in housing need, and we implore the council to do this.”
Lewisham council have set a target of building more than 1,000 new social homes over the next four years with 117 due to be available for social rent at Tidemill. Redevelopment of Tidemill and surrounding areas will provide 209 new homes, 54 per cent of which will be social.
There are nearly 10,000 people on Lewisham’s housing waiting list and more than 2,000 households in temporary accommodation because of a lack of social housing in the borough.
Councillor Paul Bell, cabinet member for housing, said: “It is disappointing that the actions of some activists illegally occupying the site meant we had no choice but to spend this large sum of money which could have been much better used elsewhere for those in real housing need.
“In the last three years alone private rents have risen by almost three times as much as earnings in Lewisham. “We are fighting the housing crisis by building more homes at social rented levels and working with others to do the same.
“Tidemill offers an unprecedented amount of social housing and we cannot let those who wish to undermine the scheme for their own motives further delay these homes from being built.
“We are sorry for the residents who live locally and are caught in the middle of this ongoing situation. We are trying our best to resolve it.”
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