SQUATTERS have won the first round in a legal battle with energy firm RWE npower over their occupation of an abandoned house overlooking Thrupp Lake in Radley.

About 15 unemployed homeless people have set up home at the house, called Sandles, as part of an ongoing protest to save the old gravel pit from being used as a dump for spent fuel ash.

And yesterday Judge Tom Corrie at Oxford County Court dismissed RWE npower's application to evict them from the five-bedroom house because the company did not give five clear days before going to court.

But he said: "They (the squatters) have no right to be there, they are going to be chucked out and they may run the risk of an order for costs.

"They can do it the sensible way or the hard way."

Squatter Mike Powell, 34, acknowledged that they had won because of a "legal hitch" and that the company would be back.

He said: "But we will be ready. We are here legally under Squatters Rights and plan to stay here.

"We want to improve the house and create a wildlife education centre.

"We are opposed to npower's plans to use this wonderful lake to dump harmful fuel waste from Didcot power station.

"Although we won the first battle we still have a fight on our hands. But I bet the Big Brother household will have the first eviction before us."

The squatters said they gained access through an insecure back door - the property had already been entered and some damage caused. They said they would protect the property and look after it.

Squatter Samantha Smith from Reading said: "I don't know how anyone can allow the destruction of Thrupp Lake.

"The lake is full of wildlife. It will be destroyed and another valuable habitat will be lost all because of money.

Johan Helenius from Finland who's studying music in London said: "We must do all we can to protect the lake from destruction."

The squatters were defended in court by Elizabeth England who asked Judge Corrie to dismiss the proceedings because npower had not allowed five working days between serving notice on the squatters and the court hearing yesterday.

Save Radley Lakes - a protest group set up to protect the lake - staged a demonstration outside the court while the hearing was taking place, with a banner and someone dressed up as a water vole.

The group said it supports the occupation of the house - A Save Radley Lakes banner adorns the front the of house - because it believes it is a positive step in protecting the lake from harm by putting a further obstacle in the way of RWE npower's plans.

David Guyoncourt, from the group, said: "We have been campaigning to save the lakes for the last 20 months.

"We have been supporting the squatters this morning because we feel we should support anyone who is fighting to save these beautiful lakes."

RWE npower spokesman Kelly Brown said: "We will issue a new claim for possession of the building, which will be stamped and issued on Thursday."

"Hopefully we will get a new court date within the next week or so and have possession of the property as soon as possible."

Gary Chapman, for npower, told the court: "We believe we gave five days' notice when we personally served the notice on Wednesday, January 3."

  • The house is still connected to electricity and the water supply comes from a stop cock outside. The heating system is oil and the squatters decided against it on environmental grounds and are using a portable gas heater is being used.

Two large wooden locked gates lead into the house, once owned by a family one of whom was a keen water skier.

The house and lake were sold to npower two years ago. The squatters who come from all parts of the country and abroad got to know about the Radley Lakes issue from publications and the Internet.