Squatters fighting to save a university from being turned into flats say their lives “hang in the balance” after a judge told them he needed more time to decide the fate of the site.
Campaigners who have moved into the former Cat Hill campus, on the border of Enfield and Barnet, flooded Barnet County Court for a hearing to determine whether they should be allowed to stay.
Developer London & Quadrant (L&Q) plans to build 231 new homes on the site but sought an eviction order after the self-styled “eco-warriors” moved in.
The squatters claim L&Q is felling trees at the cost of the bat population and destroying the habitat of the great-crested newts.
After hearing representations from both sides, Judge Stone told the courtroom he needed to retire to determine whether the squatters should have to clear the site.
Speaking after the decision, squatter Danny Vortex said: “I’ve never seen that before so it’s truly a fantastic decision, we’ve got a chance. We are so happy, this is amazing.
“Obviously things are still hanging in the balance for us but now we’ll have to continue to rally for what we believe it.
“We are now hoping it will be found in our favour.”
During the hearing, the squatters argued they have the right to remain on the site under Article 8, which protects the right to privacy in their home and family life.
But dismissing their claim, Sara Beecham, speaking on behalf of L&Q, said the land could not be considered as their home as they had only moved in there since April.
The squatters also claimed the land is protected by a covenant drafted in 1912, which says the land can only be used for educational purposes.
However, although is no clause that prevents the sale of the land, the squatters said the sale of the land could only be valid if the Charity Commission agrees to it.
Squatter the Reverend Peter Nichols told the judge that L&Q were a “criminal” company.
He said: “The whole thing is criminal. You risk your life standing up to these people.
“There is so much fraud, deception and corruption here. Their staff are violent, vicious and dangerous.
“One nearly killed one of my friends, I filmed the whole thing. I’ve been punched in the back and handcuffed, just for giving a statement.”
His speech was met with a round of applause from the crowded court room, but the judge asked him how it gives the squatters a right to be there.
Rev Nichols replied: “We need to expose what they are really like. This corruption means they have no right to possession.”