On Friday 30 October, student squatters took over a farmhouse on the Binnenveld near Wageningen. After an initial clash with the owner, they are tidying up and creating a vegetable garden.
That didn't work. This morning a group of fifteen people set off for the farmhouse, which has been empty for nearly four years. Most of them are students at Wageningen University, and eight of them want to live here. 'The housing shortage in Wageningen is growing', says biology student Erik. The squatters think it's a nice coincidence that this weekend is national squatting weekend.
Looking like a group of birdwatchers, the squatters cycled to the Rijnsteeg early in the morning, reaching the empty farmhouse by seven o'clock. The police came along and confirmed that the house was indeed unoccupied. So as far as they were concerned, the squatters could stay. The owner, who lives next door, took a different view. He sent in a digger to knock down the building.
The digger destroyed the guttering, with people sitting inside the building. 'It was a tremendous shock. We called the police in panic at that point', said Erik. The police called the owner to order. Later that day, the owner and the squatters negotiated. The owner wants to demolish the farmhouse in January, once he has the necessary permits. On second thoughts, he says he can live with the idea of the squatters staying there until then. That is, as long as he can come to good agreements with them.
Meanwhile, the squatters are busy cleaning the place up. They are getting a lot of help, from Josefine for example. She is a student of Forest and Nature Management, and lives in a squat in Ede. 'We have almost finished planting a vegetable garden. After all, we are students at an agricultural university', says Josefine proudly. 'A couple of biology students immediately started to object, like, 'no, that is a very unusual plant'. So now we have a system with red sticks to show where the rare plants are. There was a lot of celery, which we put straight into the soup.'
Inside, a toilet that had been kicked over has been put back in place and stuck together. But there is still no water. If the worst comes to the worst, the old-fashioned, green-lidded latrine in the shed could provide relief.