Lewisham Council spent £105,000 evicting the Tidemill Garden protestors in Deptford – money which it says could have gone towards housing 20 homeless families in temporary accommodation for 12 months.

Save Tidemill Save Reginald campaigners occupied the council-owned garden for two months to stop it being demolished for development into tower blocks.

Scores of bailiffs forcibly evicted campaigners in October and there has been a security presence at the site since then.

Cabinet member for housing, Councillor Paul Bell said the council had “no choice” but to spend the “large sum of money” in order to continue with the controversial plans.

These include the demolition of the 16 homes in Reginald House for a 209-house development – with 117 of the homes to be let at ‘genuinely affordable’ rent.

“It is disappointing that the actions of some activists illegally occupying the site meant we had no choice but to spend this large sum of money which could have been much better used elsewhere for those in real housing need,” he said.

He said more social housing was needed with private rents in Lewisham rising nearly three times as much as earnings.

“Tidemill offers an unprecedented amount of social housing and we cannot let those who wish to undermine the scheme for their own motives further delay these homes from being built.”

But a spokesperson for Deptford Neighbourhood Action, a group set up in 2015 to facilitate community input into plans for the area, said the council “always had a choice.”

“Damien Egan and Paul Bell have the choice to take a better road even at this late stage,” group co-ordinator Andrea Fuller-Carey explained.

“The council has chosen to clamp down hard on the campaign [because] people were openly criticising the council and their actions.

“They had a choice to ask people to leave peacefully on October 29,” she said.

The group has pushed for the council to re-draw plans to keep the garden, with air quality and access to green space concerns for locals, she said.

“We still want the council to do better, and find a better solution for everybody,” she added.

Speaking in June this year, London Assembly member for Lewisham, Len Duvall, said the loss of the garden which has been a community asset for 30 years “did not need to happen.”