SQUATTERS who transformed an industrial building into a valuable community space are facing eviction.

The 491 Gallery in Grove Green Road, Leytonstone, has been bought by private developers who are believed to be planning to build flats on the site.

A petition has been started by gallery supporters who hope to persuade the new owners to retain the community space, which is free to access for artists, musicians and community groups.

The 10 people who call the building home have been served notice to leave and told there are plans to demolish the structure and build a three-storey housing block.

Benjamin David, 34, who claims to have moved into the squat 10 years ago said the facility has a strong political ideology free of money and greed and a long-standing connection with the community.

He added: “We are the centre heartbeat of art and culture in Leytonstone.
“In a time of massive cuts, the centre is open to everyone.

“This is my life. I can’t see beyond it. People either live in or just come in for an event.

“They get involved in important things in life, such as creativity and happiness.”

James Moriarty, 37, is the 491’s resident gardener and has transformed the building’s large back yard, once filled with rubble and skips, into a garden with hundreds of species of plants.

Children are often taken on tours of the space and people can get advice on how to transform urban gardens into a haven.

Mr Moriarty said: “The art and garden project is essential for the local community. It is the only place in the area to use for music and other art projects.

“Most artists are very poor. I hope the local council and other officials will realise how important this place is.

“Another derelict site would be ideal for us to relocate.”

The Guardian was unable to contact the new owners at the time of going to press.