City legal row could run for nearly a year

ST PAUL’S Cathedral could close to visitors for a second time, it has emerged, as the City of London demanded protesters clear their camp today or face High Court action.

Yesterday officers from the City Corporation pinned eviction notices to activists’ tents asking them to leave by 6pm, the opening salvo in a legal battle that could run for nearly a year.

If, as expected, activists defy the request then the corporation will ask the High Court to issue an injunction. A leading lawyer has said, however, that this could take several months.

Adam Chapman, head of public law at Kingsley Napley, said: “The closest analogy is the Parliament Square green case. They began proceedings in May and they finally got an injunction in [the following] March. It would not necessarily take that long but we are talking months.”

Last night activists said the legal action “changes nothing”. Priscilla Aroso, 21, said she would stay “until they physically remove me”.

The protesters are holding regular talks with St Paul’s but it is still possible they could move back onto church property if the City eventually manages to obtain an injunction.

A spokesman for the cathedral declined to comment when asked if it would shut its doors again. Last month the controversial decision to close to visitors led to the resignation of three clerics, including the Dean.

But the church has refused to take part in legal action, and said: “We are committed to maintaining St Paul’s as a sacred space in the heart of London... We have always desired a peaceful resolution and the Canons will continue to hold regular meetings with representative of the protesters.”