Obituary: Phil Jeffries, a meticulous campaigner

Phil Jeffries, who has died aged 55, devoted much of his life to campaigning on a variety of planning, housing and anti-war issues.

Born in Darlington, he came to London to study physiology but did not finish his degree, becoming involved instead in the squatting movement. I first met Phil when I was part of the Advisory Service for Squatters collective in the mid-1970s and was immediately impressed with the thoroughness of his thinking and the depth of his commitment to radical causes. He was always able to come up with innovative ideas and new approaches, and he helped many squatters to fight off eviction by acting as their “Mackenzie” adviser in court hearings.

He was more knowledgeable about the law than many lawyers, and he turned his hand to editing, with his partner Diana Shelley, a legal advice pack for nuclear disarmers (published by CND in 1984). When Phil and Diana moved to a flat behind King’s Cross, he was already active in the campaigns to mitigate the effects of the new Channel Tunnel rail link.

Together with local people, he founded the King’s Cross Railway Lands Group in 1987 and was its chair for several years. He used his legal and lobbying skills to stymie the original rail link proposals which would have demolished large swaths of King’s Cross. Later, when St Pancras was chosen as the terminus in 1993, he helped found the Cally Rail Group, which tried to ensure that disruption was kept to a minimum. The group managed to see off a proposal to close the Caledonian Road for several years. Later, when engineers had “forgotten” parliament’s aim not to dig up the road, Phil led negotiations with the Department for Transport which led to £100,000 paid in compensation to local shops for lost trade.

In 1985, as a result of his work in the Nuclear-Free Zones Movement, he got a job with the Greater London Council. When it was abolished, he became PA to the Labour leader of the Fire and Civil Defence Authority, and recently became a London Fire Brigade statistician. Last year, he and two colleagues won an award for tracking down a hoaxer who made 885 calls in 45 days. By analysing the pattern of calls from public telephones, Phil correctly predicted where the next call would come from and the hoaxer was arrested.

He loved cooking, music, bird-watching, archaeology and history. He was diagnosed with cancer last August but faced his fate with courage and grace. He is survived by Diana and his brother, Steve.

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