Bailiffs called in to end Victoria Ground protest
TRESPASSER Dave Barker is to be kicked off the old Victoria Ground – after camping overnight on the land for around six weeks in a one-man protest.
Landowner St Modwen is set to bring in bailiffs to remove Dave and his tent from Stoke City's former ground this week.
In 2009, the 52-year-old attempted to live on the land for 10 years so he could claim squatter's rights but was unsuccessful.
But Dave returned in January to rough it behind Stoke Minster Primary School after St Modwen submitted a planning application to build 113 houses on the site.
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He wants the land turned into a park.
Former soldier Dave, who has a house in Victoria Street, Hartshill, said: "People say I'm mad but I only set up here because I want to see this area redeveloped as a park with better facilities for future generations. There are already hundreds of houses popping up across the city at various sites. The last thing we need is more of them.
"I was shaken up to be visited by representatives of the developer and be told to go this week but I will leave if I have to.
"I am tough enough to live in these conditions.
"I was a soldier so I have been in a lot worse situations.
"I need an expert who can give support and information on adverse possession or squatter's rights. I would need someone to stand up and make my legal case for me."
Neighbours have been stunned to see Dave staying in his tent in freezing conditions with just a fire to keep him warm. Shawne Shanahan, who lives in nearby Stamer Street, said: "The thing people don't realise about Dave is that his heart is in the right place.
"People think he is a bit eccentric but he is genuinely passionate about getting a park built there.
"He's done a lot of research on the land and is willing to camp out there during the freezing cold and snow.
"There are not many people who would be willing to go to those lengths for a cause."
The former Victoria Ground has been derelict since the Potters moved to the Britannia Stadium in 1997.
The latest plan for the land promises to breathe fresh life into Stoke town centre.
Mike Herbert, St Modwen North Staffordshire Regional Director, said: "The Victoria Ground is private land with no public access.
"We have spoken at length with Mr Barker a number of times to explain our position and request that he voluntarily leave the site. Mr Barker has refused this request therefore we have had to exercise our right and responsibility to remove him from the land.
"Earlier this year St Modwen and Persimmon Homes submitted a detailed planning application for a multi-million pound residential development at this site.
"The redevelopment will deliver much-needed homes to the region and bring visual, environmental and economic improvements. This includes nearly one acre of open space and a children's play area."