Squatters have moved in to an empty former department store.

A notice has been stuck on the inside of the doors of the Co-op building in London Road, Brighton, informing passers-by that “we live in this property, it is our home and we intend to stay here”.

The occupation came as activists prepare for an “international squatting convergence” in the city involving activists from around the UK and France this weekend.

Top-floor windows were open and lights were on in the first floor of the building yesterday (May 16).

A symbol used by the Squatters Network of Brighton had been drawn on several windows.

A spokeswoman for the group declined to comment on whether the building had been occupied as part of the convergence, which is taking place from tomorrow (May 18) until Sunday, May 20.

The location of the event had not been released yesterday (May 16), but the group’s website gave only a phone number for participants to call for directions.

But the website did read: “There is space in the building for everyone to sleep – please bring sleeping bags and blankets, it might be a bit chilly, and something to sleep on, like a roll mat. There will be quiet spaces as well for sleeping.”

The former Co-op department store has struggled to attract developers since its closure in February 2007.

The only proposal, which was for student flats, was knocked back by the council’s planning committee in December last year.

A man living in London Terrace, at the back entrance to the shop, said he saw people climbing over the fence two nights ago and assumed they were squatters.

A 50-year-old woman, who did not want to be named, said she had seen people on the roof of the building.

She said: “We can’t go into our garden.

“They have got stickers up and their logos on the window.

“It is going to be awful come the weekend. We can’t find out what’s happening.”

Philip Wells, chairman of the London Road local action team – the community group which helps set police priorities for the area – said: “The building obviously presents a target.

“The sooner it can be brought back into some sort of legitimate use the better.”

A spokeswoman for the event declined to comment on the numbers expected to arrive but said the event was not aimed at the public.

She said more than 20 workshops are planned, as well as a children’s area and vegan kitchen.

She said: “It is a private event essentially for people who squat.

“It is not a public-type social centre, it is a private event for people who are in the same position who are being made illegal.”

A spokesman for the Co-op said: “We have been made aware of the situation and are considering the options that are open to us.”

Plans to redevelop the Co-op site are in limbo. Would you rather see squatters living there than leave the building empty?