Squatters occupying Friern Barnet Library will appeal against their eviction while community groups launch their own bid to run the facility, it has been confirmed.
Members of the Friern Barnet Community Library voted last night to press ahead with legal action to delay or prevent their eviction should negotiations with the local authority fail.
The squatters gained access to the closed Friern Barnet Road building in September and set up a community library of more than 8,000 books with the help of community groups and supporters.
Barnet Council won a possession order for the building in December but agreed not to enforce it until January 31 to allow discussions with the occupiers over the possibility of granting them a formal licence.
The occupiers have until January 8 to lodge an appeal against the possession order and until January 31 to strike a deal with the local authority.
At last night’s meeting, the group agreed to press ahead with the appeal but also formed a five-person panel to begin negotiations with the council.
On the group’s chances of obtaining a licence while still launching the appeal, library campaigner Keith Martin said: “We want Barnet Council to take their legal responsibility to provide libraries for everyone in the borough.
“We’re not looking to antagonise the council or argue with them – we’re looking to negotiate and invite them to be party to the continuation of the library and prevent the dissipation of the overflowing book stock we have there.”
At last night’s meeting, held in the library, five representatives were put forward to hold talks with the authority.
These included chartered librarian Anne Storey, psychotherapist Fiona Brickwood and chartered accountant John Moser, who agreed to act as the group’s co-ordinator.
Retired accountant Mr Martin, named as a defendant in the initial court case, will also be part of the negotiations and agreed to remove his name from the appeal in order to sit on the panel.
The Save Friern Barnet Library (SFBL) campaign group also agreed to put forward a representative, who will be named in the next two days.
The negotiators have already written to Barnet Council requesting a first meeting on January 11, while solicitors Leigh Day have begun preparing the legal appeal in time for the deadline.
The occupiers have already raised the £635 needed to lodge the appeal and intent to hold fundraisers to collect the £465 legal fee should the appeal be accepted.
SFBL group’s joint co-ordinator Maureen Ivens said: “These are very exciting times and we have every expectation of success.
“The appeal is being lodged and it is something we fully support. We’re confident the council will not be able to gain possession of the building while the appeal goes forward, which will buy us more time.
“We’re hopeful the council will act in good faith during these negotiations. This is the first very important step towards achieving justice for the community in terms of returning a permanent library service.”
The Times Series is awaiting a comment from Barnet Council on the developments.