Squatters who occupied an empty café in a country park last week say they are “peaceful” and want to “open up” the area to the public.

However Hale ward councillors and the café's owners have branded the squatters "mindless individuals" who are delaying the café's opening, and insist they should be moved out.

The group of squatters moved into the café in Scratchwood in Barnet Way last Thursday, declaring they have a legal right to be there since the building is a commercial property and they want to open it to the public.

One of the squatters Jonathan Price, 42 of eco-organisation London Global said: “We’re not stealing anything. We want this cafe to be open for everybody, we want to renovate it and give it back to residents.

“We want to develop an eco water supply and make it a place for people to come and have picnics and bring their families.”

The squatters, who describe themselves as "creative" have set up a living area under trees outside the café with a sofa, a fire and a small sound system, and are decorating the café with art works made from found objects.

The squatters insisted they had not dissuaded families from coming to the area with their children over the weekend.

Local resident Darren said: "The squatters are doing no harm. They had a small party on Sunday with about 20 people. People joined in, there were families having barbecues and playing football near them."

Squatter Pablo Miranda added: “We’re cleaning up and making the area look nice. We’ve been preventing people doing dodgy things like using the park for dogging. People drive up late at night in their cars, see we’re here and drive off again.”

Mr Price said: “If we feel the café will be in good hands and someone with take responsibility for it we will be prepared to move out.”

However the leaseholder of the café Mukesh Hirani, who is director of Exact Homes Ltd, said the squatters were severely delaying its opening.

He added: “We’re not happy about this. This was not an empty building, it had just been built. We’re on the verge of completing the red tape and were going to begin refitting the cafe very soon. We were hoping to open it by the end of the summer.

“What the squatters are doing is causing as much havoc as possible. They’re causing major delays to the opening of the café, if they want it to open to the public they should move out.”

Councillor Hugh Rayner, who represents Hale ward added: “Barnet Borough Council has worked very hard to improve the area and a developer has been persuaded to build a very impressive café – which when opened will be used and enjoyed by visitors to the area.

“It is a great shame a group of mindless individuals have thought fit to come and camp in our lovely park – playing loud music and toileting where they wish.

“It is now down to the council, the café owner and the police to sort matters out, we urge people to be patient while eviction and ejection proceedings progress.”

Cllr Rayner is in the process of setting up a Friends of Scratchwood. For more information contact him on welcome@friendsofscratchwood.co.uk or 0208 958 3364.