St Paul's protest 'can stay until new year'

St Paul's protest camp
Image caption There are about 200 tents around St Paul's Cathedral

Anti-capitalist protesters camping outside St Paul's Cathedral in London have said they are considering an offer to allow them to stay until 2012.

The Occupy London Stock Exchange (OLSX) group described it as a "great U-turn" and said it had been asked to say when it would leave the site.

The City of London Corporation said it was looking to avoid legal action.

It said it had urged the protesters to "shrink" the size of the camp to enable it to clear the public highway.

A spokesman added it would not reveal details of what was discussed with the protesters but a statement on its website said it had "asked the camp to say when they are going".

Stuart Fraser, the corporation's policy chairman, said the two sides were exploring how to "mutually satisfy our different requirements".

'Great U-turn'

The development follows the corporation's decision on Tuesday to pause legal action to evict the protesters, hours after St Paul's Cathedral abandoned its legal action against the camp.

Plans to set up a similar camp in Canary Wharf were scuppered when Canary Wharf Group, which owns the land, secured a High Court injunction.

A spokesman for the company said it secured the court order on Tuesday and the injunction would remain in place indefinitely.

Image caption Protesters gathered at Canary Wharf last month to make speeches

The OLSX campaign said the City of London Corporation's offer would lead to it leaving St Paul's on an agreed date in 2012.

The group said it would discuss the offer at an internal meeting later.

Tina Rothery, from OLSX, who was present at a meeting with the local authority's officials on Wednesday, said: "This is a great U-turn from the Corporation of London.

"And following the backing of the Archbishop and St Paul's, this is proving to be an exciting time for our movement.

"Only on Tuesday morning, the corporation was about to attempt to evict us. Now they are offering a reprieve."

Church resignations

Mr Fraser said: "I am not in a position, the same way as negotiators in the camp are not in a position, to actually agree a deal.

"I have to go back to my council and they have to go back to their council to get agreement.

"But I need to sort of get to a position where I think maybe our members can agree something with the protesters about the length of time they are going to be there."

He added the authority was "desperately trying to avoid" legal action.

The camp, which involves about 200 people, has been outside the cathedral since 15 October. People taking part are protesting against inequality and corporate greed in the City.

Similar camps have been set up elsewhere in the UK as part of the Occupy movement, which has spread from New York since September.

In Bournemouth, protesters are camped in front of the town hall while tents have been set up in Glasgow city centre's George Square.

Protesters at a camp in Birmingham's Victoria Square have moved to another area to make way for an annual German Christmas market.

The row has seen the resignations of the cathedral's Dean, the Right Reverend Graeme Knowles, its Canon Chancellor, Giles Fraser and its part-time chaplain Fraser Dyer.

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