Squatters called police to complain someone was breaking in to the property they were occupying to discover it was the landlord.

When police arrived at the city centre squat on Bartholomews in Brighton they found Baron Estates representatives, who own the property, being sprayed with fire extinguishers as they attempted to evict the occupants, watched by a growing crowd.

The flats above luxury beauty store Space NK have been taken over by squatters, causing disruption to local businesses and loss of revenue.

Marie Geraghty, 37, store manager of Space NK, said: “For the last two weeks, their behaviour has really disrupted my business.

“We are a luxury boutique, we don't want people like that messing with our business.

“On sunny days, they have been sitting out of the windows above my shop sign, it's just a nightmare.

“One of the whisky bottles fell out of the window and nearly hit one of my girls, so that had to be cleared up.

“Hopefully they'll be gone soon, they just look like a mess really.

“These squatters think they are so right, it's just hilarious.”

A police spokesman said: “The call came from an occupant of the property to report someone was trying to break in.

“Officers discovered the attempt to enter the property was being made by representatives of the owner, who had obtained a possession order.

“The occupants were squirting fire extinguishers and throwing items.

The Argus:

“Police advised the owner to obtain sheriff's officers to assist with the eviction and to advise police in advance. Along with her staff, she left the area around 2.45pm.”

Squatters are protesting their innocence, claiming the landlords illegally broke through the door of their home less than an hour after they left court with the possession order.

Just two hours after police left the area, squatters were seen to be using ladders to gain access to the property once more.

One squatter, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “They smashed a window and threatened us with a crowbar even though they were repeatedly told that what they were doing was against the law.

“We called the police, but when they arrived they showed no concern for our safety and simply stood by ignoring the legal documents we showed them which proved the illegality of Baron Estates attempted eviction.”

A spokeswoman for Little Coffee Company, two doors down from the squatters, said: “We would have usually had a very busy day, but the negative atmosphere about the place has meant for pretty slow trade.”