September 12, 2008

Protest organisers fearing BNP hijack

Organisers of a protest rally over house-building numbers fear their event could be hijacked by the British National Party.

The far right organisation has promoted the Bournemouth event on its national website, linked it to the issue of immigration and urged all its supporters to attend. The move has alarmed rally organisers and prompted them to issue a warning that anti-immigration protests will not be tolerated.

The rally, which will take place in Bournemouth Square at 11.30am tomorrow, is intended to protest at plans to build tens of thousands of new homes in the area, many on green belt land. Bournemouth, Poole, Christchurch, East Dorset, Purbeck and Dorset County Councils have all joined forces to lobby the government over the provisional target of building 48,100 new homes in South East Dorset between now and 2026.

Seven local action groups and Dorset Campaign to Protect Rural England will also be present, and several local MPs are due to address the crowd.

Bournemouth councillor Nick King said: "While anybody is welcome to come to the protest, it is explicitly non-party political and aimed at ensuring that local councils and local people get to decide where the housing that we undoubtedly need is placed. We make no link and believe there is no direct link between housing numbers and immigration. For the BNP to jump on the bandwagon and twist this issue is despicable. We will ensure that if there is anybody there protesting on any issue other than the Regional Spatial Strategy, they will be discouraged from attending."

The article on the BNP's website states: "The drive to build new homes and rip up greenbelt land is directly linked to the mass immigration policies of successive Labour and Tory governments, which has meant that the government has to find housing for populations three times the size of Birmingham within the next few decades."

Simon Darby, press officer for the BNP, said: "There's not too much wrong with Bournemouth at the moment but this is going to spoil it. Do people want to live in a country that's almost totally concrete? If I lived in Bournemouth, I would be attending this rally. BNP supporters living in the area have every right to attend and make their feelings known."

Chief Inspector Nicky Searle, of Bournemouth and Poole police, said: "We are aware of the event and we will ensure that a lawful rally can take place. No information suggests anything to the contrary at this time."

Dorset Echo

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