Tenants at West Raynham Park reassured despite company going into administration
Worried residents of homes on a former Norfolk airbase have been assured that their tenancies are still intact despite the company that owns the site going into administration.
The former West Raynham RAF station near Fakenham was bought by Norfolk businessman Roger Gawn in October 2007 from Hodge Homes in a multi-million-pound deal.
He went on to create a new community called West Raynham Park out of the former service families' living quarters.
Mr Gawn, who owns Thalia Investments - formerly Tamarix Investments, confirmed to the EDP the company was in administration and owed the South African bank Investec, which has a branch in London, more than �20m.
He said: 'We have had to suffer, as so many people have, from the financial crisis. The original plan was to sell all the houses, but market conditions made that impossible.
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'We agreed with Investec that we would let the properties instead and trade the development as an investment. That was fine up until 2011, when, about six months ago, the bank began to evaluate whether they wanted to invest in the whole site.
'The bank decided that they were not going to put any more money up because they couldn't.'
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Mr Gawn said the situation was a product of the banking crisis and that London-based administrators Moore and Stephens were brought in just before Christmas.
Mr Gawn said another of his companies, West Raynham Park Management, set up two years ago, would continue to manage the site,
West Raynham Park Management was established when he decided to rent out all 172 homes across the former officers' quarters and married people's quarter at the 160-acre site, onetime home of RAF Bloodhound missiles.
Mr Gawn said Tamarix Investments changed its name to Thalia Investments last October and Investec decided to pull out of the scheme a month later.
Before Mr Gawn's company went into administration, tenants of West Raynham Park had paid their monthly rent to Tamarix. Then on December 5, a notice was put up at a sales office on the site explaining that rent would need to be paid directly from then on to Investec. Also given were contact details for more information, said Mr Gawn.
He added: 'Every single person has had a letter which told them where to pay their rent, and if they did not pay they were in breach of their lease.'
Will Scoular, of Investec, said: 'Following the need to appoint administrators we would like to reassure tenants that they face no liability to the debt owed by Mr Gawn's company and can continue to occupy their properties under their existing tenancy agreements. Investec is strongly committed to supporting the development of this community and has appointed a new management team that will be engaging with local stakeholders with the aim of introducing a number of enhancements.'
One tenant of West Raynham Park who wished to remain anonymous told the EDP: 'People are getting completely neurotic. They are worried.'
She added that many people in the homes had been refusing to pay their rent and were concerned about being evicted from their homes.
Mr Gawn responded by saying that the only people who would be evicted would be people who did not pay.
Mr Gawn said: 'I don't know who is going to end up owning the site. It is immaterial who owns it because nothing is going to change. Why there should be concern about where tenants pay their rent is a mystery to me.'
He said a number of offers had been made for West Raynham Park over the past 18 months but claimed Investec would not accept them.
Before the site was sold to Mr Gawn, the homes had sat empty for more than 10 years after the base's closure, attracting criticism of the Ministry of Defence.