A derelict grade II listed pub has been left empty for three years due to a legal dispute between the building’s owner and its tenants, it has emerged.

Campaigning squatters moved into the Doctor Johnson pub in Longwood Gardens, Barkingside, ten days ago in an attempt to negotiate re-opening the building for community use.

The Guardian has learned the building is owned by Cloverton Properties based in Colchester, which is currently in dispute with tenant Spirit Pub Company.

A spokesman for Spirit said the dispute was “long-running” but did not clarify the nature of the dispute.

He also claimed the company was not currently the responsibility of the company.

The squatters, who are members of group Suspenses Property Guardians, have been in contact with the landlord and are hopeful a deal can be struck.

Spokesman ‘Gee’, 41, said: “The landlord is on board with it, we just need Spirit Pub Company to give us the go ahead too.

“If we didn’t take action nothing would be done and this legal dispute will drag on. The only solution is that we fund the work ourselves. We are offering a way out to these two disputing parties.

“I understand it is a nightmare situation for the landlord and the company who don’t want to spend any money, but all we need is word they are behind our plans and we can fund it ourselves.

“A community centre would bring people to the area, which would really benefit local businesses and bring a massive upturn in the local economy.”

The squatters have now left the pub and will continue negotiations.