Bailiffs will not be called in to evict squatters at Friern Barnet Library after the council moved “very close” to an agreement with an interested community group this week.

The occupiers were given until today, (February 1) to vacate the premises or face forcible removal after the authority won a possession order in December.

But no eviction has taken place as the council continues to draft an agreement with the Friern Barnet Community Library group to take over the premises.

Library squatter and community activist Pete Phoenix now believes the group, which is distinct from the occupying squatters, is on the verge of settling an agreement of a two-year lease.

He said: “The council appears to have given them assurances that it will be a two-year agreement. It is incredible news.

“It is a major victory for the people of Barnet and raising awareness of the power of squatting more generally.

“I and all the crew want to stick around and help out while the library is handed over to the community.”

The Friern Barnet Road building, closed by the local authority in April, has been illegally occupied since squatters gained access in September.

A volunteer-run library was set up with the help of numerous community groups and a stock of more than 8,000 donated books.

Barnet Council was successful in its legal bid to evict the squatters in December and an appeal by the occupiers failed on Friday.

The authority says it has always refused to negotiate with the squatters, but is happy to discuss a community takeover of the building if a suitable group steps forward.

The Friern Barnet Community Library group, comprising nine local residents, professionals and librarians, was set up last month to sort out an agreement with the council.

A council spokesman said this morning: “We’ve been speaking to the Friern Barnet Community Library group and we’re very positive about reaching a conclusion shortly but we would rather have those discussions in private.”