Families on an exclusive rural housing development which has been plagued by problems for almost a decade are celebrating after finally securing ownership of the estate.
Residents at upmarket Hartford Hall, near Bedlington, Northumberland, have succeeded in buying the freehold of the estate, which has been in the hands of administrators since 2009 when the original developer hit major financial problems.
The deal means that unfinished infrastructure and landscaping work, including improvements to roads, pathways and car parking, can now be completed.
Hartford Hall residents have set up their own company and employed an expert property services firm to ensure the maintenance of the leafy estate is carried out to the highest standards.
The news comes a year after a speculative bid to build a further 23 homes there was withdrawn by North East development partnership Maymask.
Maymask claimed the scheme would generate the funds needed to complete the outstanding work on the estate, but the application was strongly opposed by the residents who said no further building was needed.
The purchase of the freehold marks the end of almost 10 years of fighting by the residents, who now say they will make Hartford Hall “one of the finest places to live in the North East”.
After families began moving there in 2004 there were complaints about dry rot, rising damp and ingress of water in some of the properties. Then the original developer, Hartford Hall Estates Ltd, was placed in administration in 2009, leaving the estate unfinished and with minimal maintenance.
There has also been a series of applications to build more homes on the estate’s open spaces, all of which were opposed by families living there.
Residents have been involved in lengthy negotiations with Northumberland County Council and the administrator about buying the freehold of the estate.
Christine Purdon, a director of the new residents’ company, claimed the estate would become the luxury development originally envisaged.
She said: “Once the council and the administrator realised that we were very serious about taking control of our own destiny, they became supportive and helped to make the residents’ dream a reality.
“It has been a long and difficult journey, but by working together we have succeeded in our aim. We will now be able to secure the future of the estate and have the environment we were promised.
“The administrator and the council have been very helpful during some very lengthy negotiations. Without their support we would not be in the position we are today.”
Residents say Hartford Hall’s historic gardens will now be restored to their former glory and the rich local wildlife habitat preserved.
Built in 1807 as a coal owner’s mansion, Hartford Hall – which stands in a 60-acre wooded estate – was placed on the English Heritage register of buildings at risk in 2000.
Planning permission was granted the following year for a scheme to save the listed building by converting the hall and its outbuildings into 20 luxury apartments and building 48 executive-style homes in the grounds.