PROTESTERS have been urged to leave Sheffield Cathedral forecourt and avoid a costly legal action.
The Dean of Sheffield is set to launch legal action to clear the members of Occupy Sheffield from the site to make way for a £3.5 million redevelopment.
But he has urged camp members to leave peacefully and spare the need to get lawyers involved.
The Very Reverend Peter Bradley said that unless the Occupy Sheffield protest camp was removed, he would have to go to court this week, because of the timescales involved in the redevelopment project.
All the forecourt would be required when the project gets under way in October, but Mr Bradley said the cathedral would need vacant possession in May or June ahead of a tendering process - and he had to allow for up to two rounds of appeal against any granting of a ‘claim for possession against trespass’, leading to the need to start legal action now.
But Mr Bradley said it was his ‘intense hope’ court could be avoided, because of the common ground between the aims of the church and the protesters and also because the cathedral could ill afford a costly legal fight.
He said: “The reality is we need the site and in good time. If they don’t leave, inevitably that would mean court, but none of us want that.
“We are not trying to trick people and we will be perfectly open.”
The cathedral is to have a new interior including new pews, heating and lighting systems, as well as a new entrance. The forecourt will be landscaped and used as a storage yard by contractors.
Earlier, the protesters said they would ‘downsize’ the camp ahead of a move to the former Salvation Army citadel in nearby Cross Burgess Street, but were keen to keep a presence at the cathedral, even if they could not agree how many tents to leave there.
Protester Tom Redfearn, 28, of Highfields, Sheffield, said he believed eight of the 20 remaining tents were occupied on Saturday night.
Worshipper Kate Marston, 28, of Sheffield city centre, said she was supportive of the protesters, but could no longer see the point of the camp.
“It’s lost its purpose and just seems to be a collection of tents,” she said.
Fellow churchgoer David Wragg, aged 54, of Brightside, said they should never have set up outside the cathedral because the protest was largely at banks.