ENERGY firm RWE npower is facing a fresh battle in its attempt to develop a Radley lake, despite evicting squatters from the site.

Campaigners, who had been occupying the house next to the lake since Christmas, were evicted by bailiffs at dawn on Tuesday.

But within hours the power company was warned it could face a High Court injunction if it started work on the lake.

RWE npower wants to dump spent fuel ash in the water, but has faced tough opposition locally.

Now solicitors acting for the Save Radley Lakes (SRL) group have written to the company in a last-ditch bid to stop the bulldozers moving in.

They have said work should not start until an application to register the lake as part of a town green has been decided.

The application is being considered by Oxfordshire County Council and a decision is not expected for another two months.

RWE npower has been warned that the SRL may seek a High Court injunction if the company starts work.

SRL says that under a 1965 Act of Parliament, land can be registered as a town green if it has been used "as of right" by local residents for lawful sports and pastimes for more than 20 years. This would protect it from permanent development.

Save Radley Lakes chairman Basil Crowley said: "RWE npower has had a lot to say about lawfulness in relation to the environmental campaigners, who they have evicted from Sandles house.

"We expect npower to respect the law and await the outcome of the legal process which will decide whether Thrupp Lake should be protected as a town green."

Kelly Brown, from RWE npower, said: "We will be responding shortly to the county council's request for our views on the town green application.

"In the meantime we will be carrying out surveys and initial preparation work at the lake. We have to get on with the work and will address any court injunction if and when it arises."

John Rainford, manager of the coal-fired operation at Didcot Power Station, said: "Work on Thrupp Lake to prepare for disposal of un-recyclable ash will begin as soon as possible.

"Our proposals have been developed with the full support of independent ecologists who will monitor all activity at Radley and ensure that every care is taken to protect the wildlife on the site."

A group of seven campaigners - four women and three men - were inside Sandles house when bailiffs arrived on Tuesday Lisa Peakman, 38, said: "I was woken by a loud bang and showered with broken glass from the French windows.

"The bailiffs were dressed in black and wore black balaclavas. There was no warning, they just smashed their way in. Fortunately, I was not hurt, but it was a very unpleasant experience."

One protester had locked himself to an old concrete-filled, oil barrel in a small cabin on top of a 35ft scaffold tower built by the squatters.

It took bailiffs almost two hours to release him and the tower was then demolished.

One man was arrested for obstructing a court officer. A second man was released without charge.

Another squatter, called Dave, said: "We may have lost round one but we will re-group and consider our next course of action.

"We are not finished yet, although we can't go back to the house which will be occupied by security people."

Save Radley Lakes is holding a public meeting tomorrow at 8pm in the Hadland Road Community Centre, off Audlett Drive, to raise support for the town green application and the legal fight that they anticipate could unfold.