Council admits £12,000 bill for tree protestor

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It has emerged that the operation to remove eco-protester Gabriel Chamberlain from his tree sit-in in Bonn Square cost Oxford City Council nearly £12,000.On Wednesday 2 January, Chamberlain, aged 34, set up his home in the tree as part of a protest against the £1.5million redevelopment of Bonn Square.The security operation arising from his protest included security staff, fencing and lighting . It cost the Council £11,700.When asked what this substantial amount of money had been spent on Councillor John Goddard, leader of the Oxford City Council, said, “£9,000 was spent on security guards, which had to be there 24/7; just over £2,000 was spent on fencing; £250 was spent on lighting and £250 on court costs.”Goddard went on to explain that the Council money had to be spent on the protest because, “The contractors very reasonably said that they wouldn’t go on the site until it was secure.“Normally the lighting, fencing and the security is the job of the contractor. If there had been no protest then they would have borne these costs but because of the protest, we had to”.Jean Fooks, the Liberal Democrat Councillor for Summertown, described the amount of money spent as a “bad choice”. She said, “It was Gabriel himself who cost us a lot of money. He wanted to make his point, and he did make his point.It’s a shame he didn’t come down after a day or two; he knew he’d have to come down eventually and he ended up costing the City Council and the tax payer a lot of money.”n Sunday 13 January a student from St Annes, Jonathan Leighton, was arrested for attempting to throw a bottle of water to Chamberlain. When questioned whether there was a cost for this Goddard replied, “There was of course no cost for that, it was simply a case of the police doing what they thought was their job.”Leighton was held in the police station in St Aldate’s for three hours and had his fingerprints taken. He said, “One has to ask why the Council are suddenly so keen to throw money at Bonn Square when it is going to sit opposite a massive new shopping centre.“Is this really about improving public space or is it about making the area ‘nice’ for people to waltz down to Westgate and fill the pockets of multinational clothing chains?”Superintendent Brendan O’Dowda refused to comment on either the Council costs or those of the police.He said, “The police did commit to securing the site but we do not talk about facts and figures, we see that as part of our job.

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