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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 April, 2004, 17:47 GMT 18:47 UK
Joy as villagers get new landlord
The 27 Gittisham homes are no longer to be put on the market
Families facing eviction after their homes were put up for sale are celebrating news of a buyer.

Tenants in 27 properties in Gittisham, near Honiton, were told in March that their old landlord, the Combe Estate, was putting their homes on the market.

But now 15 properties have been bought by the Tyneside-based Northumberland & Durham Property Trust Limited.

Nine tenants in the village are to buy homes and the remaining three are not to be sold.

Notices withdrawn

Canadian businessman and former landlord Richard Marker was planning to put the homes on the market because he no longer wanted the responsibility for the maintenance of the properties.

"It couldn't be better. All of us have always wanted just to stay together
Resident Carol Hall
He offered tenants the chance to buy their cottages, but prices averaging 300,000 proved too high for most of them.

Now the Northumberland & Durham Property Trust is intending to withdraw all the notices to quit previously served on the tenants.

The Trust is a subsidiary of Newcastle-based Grainger Trust plc, which was founded in 1912, and is the UK's largest quoted residential landlord, owning more than 12,000 tenanted properties nationwide.

Gittisham resident Carol Hall, 33, said the news was a "fairy-tale ending" for the village.

Mrs Hall, who is pregnant with her first child, added: "It couldn't be better. All of us have always wanted just to stay together."

'Good news'

Gittisham tenant Sidney Phillips, who has lived in the village for all of his 71 years, said the announcement was "good news all the way round" because it meant the close-knit community would not "lose anybody".

Mr Marker said: "I am very happy that we have achieved such a successful conclusion to the sale.

"It was always my intention to allow as many of the existing tenants to buy their own properties and I am pleased that so many have been able to do so.

"The remainder of the tenants will have as much or more security than they previously enjoyed."

A spokesman for agents Colvilles, said: "It is very satisfactory, the best news for the tenants and extremely good news for the Combe Estate."

He refused to comment on how much the homes had been sold for, but said the sale had "exceeded expectations". The homes were to be sold individually but were together estimated to be worth more than 7m.

Map showing location of Gittisham
The village is at the heart of a 3,500-acre estate
The agents said that that the Trust's offer for the 15 houses was not the highest received, but that it was identified as the outstanding purchaser due to a record of responsible ownership of tenanted property.

Brian Crumbley, director of Grainger Trust said: "The company will withdraw all notices to quit that have been previously served and will offer existing residents long-term tenant status."

Village resident the Reverend Richard Saunders said: "I'm very glad to hear that the tenants will be able to stay on.

"It's been very stressful. People have been sad, anxious, worried and angry, but we hope that this will solve the problems."

As well as buying the homes, the Trust and the Combe Estate are planning to transfer common parts of the village, such as the village green and playing field, into a suitable trust or association to be administered by the community for its long-term benefit.

Deadline looms to bid for homes
05 Apr 04  |  Devon
Villagers angry over homes sale
19 Mar 04  |  Devon
Villagers facing mass evictions
19 Mar 04  |  Devon

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