Residents are occupying the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in order to save the popular space from development.

Users of the Lewisham Council-owned garden in Deptford were meant to have left the site by 10am on Wednesday (August 29).

But about 60 residents and supporters were ready at the garden to resist eviction, Save Tidemill, Save Reginald spokeswoman Heather Gilmore said.

About a dozen tents are set up for overnight stay.

Lewisham Council will make an application to the courts for an interim possession order to force the occupiers to leave, a spokesperson confirmed.

But residents are committed to staying on site, Ms Gilmore explained.

“We are planning to stay as long as it takes,” she said.

The garden is part of controversial regeneration plans between Lewisham Council and housing association Peabody which were submitted in 2016.

The plans include the demolition of 16 homes at Reginald House and the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden to make way for a 209-home development.

In the development, 117 of the homes would be genuinely affordable.

Ms Gilmore said residents have tried “every single process” in order to keep the garden.

This includes submitting their own development plans which would have delivered the same number of homes and kept the community garden.

“There is not another space like this in Deptford and we have a massive deficit of green space because of the major developments going on,” Ms Gilmore said.

“It has been a place where people can come and have a picnic with family and friends. We have a lot of community events here, and it is an opportunity to bring the community together.

“It is also a leveller as no one has to pay to come in.”

But a Lewisham Council spokesperson accused the group of anti-social behaviour and said there were people “completely unconnected with the group”on the site.

“We gave the Tidemill garden group 28 days’ notice to leave the site, which they had access to on a meanwhile use basis and on the clear understanding that the site would be vacated once the development was ready to go ahead,” the council spokesperson said.

“We had hoped that they would leave at the end of this period however, upon arrival this morning, it was clear the group had no intention of doing so.

“It was also clear that other people completely unconnected with the group are now on the site and that damage to property and anti-social behaviour is now occurring.

“We remain committed to building more than 100 new social rented homes on this site. These new homes will bring safety, security and improvement to the lives of local families who have already been waiting for far too long for a home of their own.”

Save Tidemill, Save Reginald spokesperson Sue Lawes said everyone who has on the site was connected to the group.

“Everyone is a friend of Tidemill garden,” she explained.

She said she was unsure what anti-social behaviour had occured, or what damage had been done.

“If there is anyone planning to damage the garden it is the council,” she added.

London Assembly member for Lewisham Len Duvall has previously criticised the council’s decision to push ahead with plans, after the initial agreement between Lewisham Council and Peabody expired.

He asked that Lewisham Council reaffirm “their commitment to protecting our usable green space, and to balloting tenants when their homes are part of a proposed development”.

But Lewisham Council was concerned Peabody could take legal action to recover £3 million spent on a new public park and design costs as part of the original plans.

The Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden was only ever made available for short-term use for residents, according to Lewisham Council documents, but is a popular local facility.

Residents have also made an application for a legal review of planning permission for the development.

The group will find out if their application for a judicial review will be taken up by the High Court on Tuesday.