Squatters have overrun a site earmarked for Brighton’s first council homes for 30 years.
Planning permission to demolish asbestos-ridden Ainsworth House in Wellington Road was granted in April in a bid to reduce the city’s 12,000-strong housing waiting list.
Community wardens discovered that between 15 and 25 squatters had broken into the building on Tuesday (November 29).
The site has stood empty and unused for three years.
The council now faces a legal battle to remove the squatters before demolition work can begin.
A plan to build 12 flats and three family houses on the site was the flagship of the Tory council’s new build strategy before the Green council victory in May.
When planning permission was first granted, Bill Randall, now the Green leader of the council, said: “The homes are much-needed, especially the family houses.”
But an expert involved in drafting the original plans yesterday accused the Greens of leaving an “open invitation” to squatters by dragging their feet on the project.
Stuart Gover, vice-chairman of the Brighton City Assembly, said: “They are showing no interest in pursuing the build at all.
“It’s been an open invitation for squatters for years. The Greens are simply not doing what they have committed to do.”
Three developers have been shortlisted by the council to complete the work but Mr Gover claimed none had even submitted a cost breakdown yet.
Coun Randall said: “The problem is that there is asbestos in the building which has to be removed. That takes time.
“We are certainly not dragging our feet on this. We want these homes to be built.”
When approached, a squatter told the Argus that they felt housing was “a right, not a privilege”.
He said most of the others were spending yesterday (November 30) marching against public sector cuts.
Neighbour Jacob Collins complained: “It’s a real pain.
"There are people who have waited years on the housing list and now they may have to wait even longer.”