Monday, 14 October 2019

Landlord uses empty shop for climate change protest

Landlord uses empty shop for climate change protest

ENVIRONMENTAL campaigners have put dozens of signs in the front window of the former Old Post Office coffee shop in Wargrave.

Lynda Walker is the owner of the building and is also a member of Extinction Rebellion Reading, a non-violent campaign group seeking to tackle climate change.

Thousands of campaigners have journeyed to London this week as part of plans to “shut down Parliament” and the signs have appeared in preparation for these demonstrations.

The lease for the old business came to an end on August 15 and Mrs Walker says she wanted to use the empty window space for a worthwhile cause.

She said: “I felt such a sense of responsibility after getting the property back. I am a very active person when it comes to trying to get the government to listen and that is what it is all about for me.

“I am still amazed at how many people do not want to believe the science. They are afraid. Underneath they must know it is a real problem and I think people are kidding themselves.  This is not something to be taken lightly. It is a serious matter and the people who have taken the time to read the facts will know it is important that the government start to listen.”

The future of the premises is yet to be confirmed, although Ms Walker hopes a pop-up business with a Christmas theme will move in next month.

Ms Walker, who lives in Norfolk, says “it is a shame” there are so many empty units on the High Street in the village. She previously lived in Wargrave and purchased the building in 2008.

Empty units include Wargrave Antiques in High Street, which closed 2016 but Wokingham Borough Council have recently granted permission to convert the unit into residential use.

The former Italian restaurant Da Toni, which is almost opposite, closed after less than 12 months earlier this year, replacing Haweli after an immigration raid in June 2018. Talbot and Associates, an accountancy firm, also recently vacted the High Street.

On Victoria Road, the former newsagents and post office at Victoria News shut in August, following repeated attempts to sell the business.

Ms Walker is now encouraging the owners of other empty units to make use of their window space by supporting charities or campaigns.

She said: “There is a climate emergency and it is very important with everything else that is going on in the country that we keep this on the agenda and get the government to listen.

“More and more people are taking part and as soon as I got the building back I knew it was something that I wanted to do.”

More than 1,000 people were arrested the last time demonstrations were held in London in April.

Jennifer Leach, a member of Extinction Rebellion Reading, added: “We are confident this campaign will be viewed as a success. When there are thousands of people out on the streets of London, the politicians will have to take notice.

“This is not something that can just be swept under the carpet. This is not something we are doing for the future. People are suffering here and now. We are lucky in Britain that we are not seeing the full extent of the problem.”

Mrs Leach, who lives in Emmer Green, moved to England from Zimbabwe when she was 14 due to civil conflict in 1979.

She added: “These signs are in a prominent location where all the traffic is sitting. So while they are emitting carbon emissions into the air, they can consider the consequences of their actions.

“We feel the government are not taking enough action. When the campaigns were held previously we were still a new group.

“This time we are much more confident that we will be a force to be reckoned with. It has reached a point where something has to change. Something either changes or we face extinction.

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