Squatters at Friern Barnet Library say they are shocked at council plans to discuss selling the building before a court rules on their eviction.

Barnet Borough Council is putting the building on the open market “to assess its options” even though at least three community bids to buy or run the site are being prepared by various groups.

As the council prepares to advertise the sale, library campaigners accused it of pre-empting next month’s eviction hearing at Barnet County Court.

The council’s cabinet resources committee is due to discuss selling the building for £400,000, the day before a district judge decides whether the squatters have the right to stay put.

Part-time librarian Rosie Canning, who represents the group which took over the library, said: “I was in shock, because there are still a lot of outstanding applications.

“It is quite worrying what the council is doing – it’s  ignoring the process. It is its way of saying ‘We’re very confident we’re going to win the court case and as soon as it is won, we’re going to board up the library and sell if off’.

“Surely it should all be re-evaluated now anyway after the artsdepot fell through. The council is still not listening to the people it’s serving.”

The council recently pulled out of a joint project with the artsdepot to open a new library in North Finchley, but says the capital cannot be used to re-open Friern Barnet.

Grandmother-of-five Mrs Canning said: “It makes me feel very angry, because for a long time, the community has been saying it wants a library here, not anywhere else. We need this facility.”

However, deputy leader of the council, Councillor Dan Thomas, says any decision by the resources committee meeting, on December 17, will be put on hold until the situation around the library is certain.

He said: “Our intention has always been to market the building.

“If it is occupied, we clearly can’t market it, so we will see where we are at the time.

“I would love a strong community bid to come forward, but we will still be putting it out there for private bids in order to get best value for money.

“If people had used the library in the first place, it wouldn’t have had such a low footfall. There are a small number of regular users, but on the whole it is quiet.”

The squatters were this week seeking further legal advice in preparation for next month’s court hearing and vowed to put up a strong fight.

Mrs Canning said: “I don’t think it will be as easy as the council thinks to re-close the library. Closing libraries in a recession is like closing hospitals in the middle of a plague.

“When the library closed, Friern Barnet lost something, but it is like the heart has been put back into the community since it reopened.

“It hasn’t listened so far, and probably won’t listen now, but we’re still going to be shouting very loudly.”