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Last Updated: Friday, 19 March, 2004, 15:21 GMT
Villagers angry over homes sale
The properties to be sold could fetch an estimated 7m.
A landowner who plans to sell 27 homes he owns in a Devon village is being accused of denying tenants the chance to talk about his shock move.

But Richard Marker, 55, said he would not get into an "animal show" in front of the press.

Tenants of the properties of Gittisham, described by Prince Charles as an ideal English village, received letters on Wednesday giving them notice.

They are being given a chance to buy the homes but many cannot afford them.

As a landowner or squire, you are in a no-win situation
Richard Marker

Canadian-born Mr Marker, who inherited the 3,500-acre Combe Estate when he was 21, was due to be at a news briefing about the sale in the village hall on Friday at which villagers were going to ask to be present.

But 10 minutes before the start, the briefing was switched to his country home, Beech Walk House, a five-minute drive out of the village.

One of his tenants, Garry Anderton, said Mr Marker had remarked in a radio interview that affected villagers would be allowed to consult him.

He said: "We thought this could be the beginnings of that consultation in that public space, the village hall.

'Denied again'

"Now it seems we are being denied again, and that goes very well with the fact that we were not consulted in the whole process anyway," said Mr Anderton.

He added that he would have no prospect of buying his four-bedroom home, which he estimated was worth about 400,000.

He said villagers had been given less than 10 minutes notice of the change of venue, and they had no access to Mr Marker's house.

The properties to be sold could fetch an estimated 7m.

Mr Marker said at his home that he did want to talk to the tenants, but would not get into an "animal show" in front of the Press.

He said he would meet the tenants "as long as they do not want a shouting match".

Asked about the way the notices to quit were given to tenants, Mr Marker said: "We do make mistakes and obviously I made one here. Maybe I should have gone around the village with the agents."

But he added: "As a landowner or squire, you are in a no-win situation."

The village is at the heart of the 3,500 acre estate and the properties to be sold could fetch an estimated 7m.

'Could be negotiable'

Of the 27 homes being sold, people and families living in 17 of them have been served notice because they are on shorthold tenancies.

The others are either with vacant possession, protected tenancies or other tenancy agreements.

Mr Marker said they would go on the market at Easter, but villagers would have the opportunity to buy them.

They will receive a letter on Saturday which would give the valuation of their house and they would have three weeks to make an acceptable offer unless all the properties were sold as one lot.

Mr Marker said the price of homes "could be negotiable, they have to talk to me".

The BBC's Leigh Rundle
"Around two-thirds of the properties are owned by the Combe Estate..."

Villagers facing mass evictions
19 Mar 04  |  Devon

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