CAMPAIGNERS are squatting in a historic riverside building to protest against Oxford’s housing crisis.

The group say they got into the Old Power Station in Arthur Street through an open window and are planning to host a series of public events and lectures to flag up the lack of housing in Oxford.

But Oxford University, which owns the building on the Thames opposite Osney Island, has said it was not empty but was used for storage.

It says it has contacted the police and sought legal advice about evicting the protesters.

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Campaign organiser Andy Edwards, 29, who lives in south-east Oxford, said: “We will be exploring creative solutions to the housing crisis, discussing everything from tenants’ rights to affordable housing.

“These are local people who are frustrated about the lack of affordable housing in the city. It’s affecting people in a really acute way.

“We’re demonstrating that it’s an issue that should be raised on the political agenda and given more weight.”

Mr Edwards, a designer, said thegroup would leave the building on Sunday when the four-day series of events came to an end.

He said there was a group of up to 15 people in the building at any one time.

Jericho resident Dympna Irwin, 57, who is studying an MA in Contemporary Art at Oxford Brookes University, said: “I live in Jericho, where 23 per cent of people live below the poverty line, and then people pay £1,000 a week for a one-bed flat. It’s the centre of the national dichotomy.”

Miranda Shaw, 27, a freelance violin teacher who lives in East Oxford, said: “I’m coming from a privileged position, in that I’m living in affordable housing.

“I feel like it’s my duty to be standing up for people who don’t have that.

“It’s incredibly important these events happen to highlight the issue and raise awareness.”

Oxford City Council has recently begun offering people council homes as far away as Birmingham and Cardiff because of the lack of affordable housing in the city.

It has said it wanted to build thousands more homes – particularly south of Grenoble Road.

But it says it is restricted by the Oxford Green Belt which it wants to review.

The number of empty homes in Oxford in September was 873 of which 251 were empty for six months or more.

There are currently 3,442 households on Oxford’s housing waiting list.

City council leader Bob Price said: “The occupiers are right to highlight the scandal of Oxford’s exorbitantly high house prices and private sector rents – the highest in the country in relation to averge salaries. But it would be a better use of their time and energies if they campaigned with the Labour Party for a radical new approach to housing capital funding through lifting the housing revenue account cap and increasing land availability through changes in the weak planning framework that the coalition has put in place.”

The event, starting on Thursday, will feature talks by Prof Danny Dorling, of Oxford University, Emeritus Professor of Geography at the Open University Doreen Massey and Dawn Foster, deputy features editor of Inside Housing.

Prof Dorling said: “Both rents and house prices are rising much faster than inflation in general.

“I think it helps greatly if people research, discuss and debate this.”

Opened in 1891, the Old Power Station was Oxford’s first electrical power plant.

It was bought by Oxford University in 1971 and used as a research laboratory for the Department of Engineering Science.

It was vacated in 2010.

University spokesman Matt Pickles said: “The Old Power Station is not a disused building but it is used for storage for the university’s museums and has hosted art exhibitions in recent years.

“We are in contact with the people occupying the building and we are working with legal advisers and police with the intention that the occupiers leave the building as soon as possible.”

Thames Valley Police spokesman Rhianne Pope said: “We are liaising with the university and the protesters in order to facilitate a peaceful protest.

“We will continue to monitor the situation and deal with any issues if they arise.”

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