SQUATTERS have occupied an empty university building on the site of a proposed £100 million development.

Dozens of campaigners have set-up a “DIY squatted social centre and radical community space” in the University of Brighton building in Circus Street, Brighton.

The protesters say they will not leave the building until Brighton and Hove City Council end their Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) which they claim are “disgraceful, racist and counterproductive”.

The council has again defended the powers, now being enforced at 12 city sites, saying they are designed to ensure parks and open spaces can be enjoyed by residents.

The squat was formed on Wednesday after a tent village outside St Peter’s Church ended.

Protesters claim the camp, which had been in place for a fortnight, was cleared away on Wednesday morning by police and council staff.

Participants claim it had been agreed the camp could stay until the end of the month before making way for the Fringe venue The Warren and they were evicted illegally.

Council officials said protesters left the church grounds voluntarily and there had been no agreement the camp could stay that long.

As well as opposing PSPOs, campaigners say they aim to highlight the number of empty buildings in the city when homelessness is on the rise and calling on the university to reverse “demotions” and “pay cuts” to teaching staff.

The university said no staff have been demoted and any employees “inappropriately reclassified” will be returned to their previous status.

Protesters said they were converting “the empty mess” to provide shelter for rough sleepers and host workshops and talks.

A statement by the group said: “It is a disgrace and a dismal failure of society that people should go without food or shelter when we waste so much and so many buildings lie empty across the country, simply gathering dust or increasing value for rich oligarchs from around the world, who will never even see the inside of the building they ‘own’.”

A university spokesman said: “We are aware that a group of individuals have forced entry to an empty property currently owned by the university at Circus Street.

“The activists operating under the ALT SU banner are not part of a body recognised by the university and as such we will not be entering into any dialogue with them.”

A council spokesman said: “Our new PSPO is targeted at the growing problem of certain open spaces in the city being unusable due to trespass and anti-social activities. The PSPO is not targeted at any one group.”