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Turf War: Student Occupation ahead of UoL Drilling

By Will Durrant, BA History

Students occupied the Fourth Quadrant last Thursday in response to news that University of London (UoL) wants to begin drilling on the land.

The Fourth Quadrant is the land between Senate House North Block and the Brunei Gallery, and is owned by UoL. UoL hoped to begin exploratory drilling ahead of a potential new build on the land, in collaboration with UCL. Students have vocalised their opposition to the works, particularly because there are few green student spaces around the School.

The Save the Green occupation prevented the drilling works on Thursday, and UoL has cancelled their current construction plans. UoL has also told SOAS that it will consult with stakeholders after February 2020 before any work takes place.

#SaveTheGreen said in an initial statement, “the Green is essential to the SOAS community as it is our main green communal space.” 

They continued: “In a context of savage capitalism and urban development in which every single piece of green land is being targeted and built on, not only in London but all around the world, protecting the Green becomes even more relevant. We need to fight collectively to ensure our communal spaces and everything they mean for the people who use them are kept safe. We have witnessed throughout history, and nowadays, how dispossession of land ownership and use is key to the spreading of a gendered and racialised imperialist, colonial and capitalist agenda that keeps killing people and the planet. For that reason, protecting the Green is the very least we can do to actively fight this agenda and ensure a better and fairer future for all.”

The Students’ Union encouraged students to join the protest to Save the Green, whilst SOAS affirmed in an earlier email to staff and students that they had not initiated the works, nor do they think that planning permission has been sought for the final development. SOAS said: “We fully appreciate the importance and day to day use which our community makes of this land, and loss of use that construction on the site would represent – albeit this is not land we own or have any specific rights to use.

“If planning permission is sought for building on the UoL site, we will look at plans carefully and make representations in relation to the site to seek to protect the best interests of our staff and student community.”

According to a recent King’s College London study, London lost 4% of its vegetated areas to urbanisation, industrial development, and densification between 1990 and 2016.

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