Places for People Scotland to buy Agnes Hunter Trust properties in Leith

Castle Rock Edinvar Places for PeopleTenants who were facing eviction from their homes in Leith are being allowed to stay after a deal was agreed to sell the properties to Places for People Scotland.

The Trustees of the Miss Agnes Hunter Trust, which owned the flats in Lorne Street, had been looking to sell the 92 properties since October last year to concentrate on the Trust’s charitable purposes.

Residents feared for months that they might lose their homes and local politicians including Deidre Brock MP, Malcolm Chisholm MSP and councillors Nick Gardner, Angela Blacklock and Cammy Day backed a petition to save the families affected.

The Trustees declined an offer made in December by Port of Leith Housing Association (PoLHA) to take over the property portfolio then in May a reprieve for tenants looked likely as the Trust decided not to proceed with the planned rolling programme of individual sales.

Since November 2015 the Trustees have invited interest from housing associations in a possible bulk sale of the remaining portfolio and are “delighted” that a mutually beneficial outcome with Places for People Scotland has now been agreed.

Places for People Scotland confirmed the sale of the property portfolio would not affect the lease agreement and rights of the tenants.

Walter Thomson, chairman of the Miss Agnes Hunter Trust, said: “The Trustees have considered the offer carefully and are confident that Places for People Scotland and its associated organisation Castle Rock Edinvar have the expertise and resources to take management of the property portfolio forward and that the sale is in the best interests of the tenants.

“Places for People Scotland has confirmed that the sale of the property portfolio will not affect the lease agreement and rights of the tenants.

“We have written to the tenants informing them of the sale and advising that The Miss Agnes Hunter Trust will remain their landlord until the settlement date of 28th November 2016 after which tenancies will transfer to Places for People Scotland. Our agents Rettie & Co will be writing to each tenant with the full details.

“The sale will enable the Trustees to carry out the specified wishes of Miss Hunter by maintaining the financial grants to registered charities which support people suffering from arthritis and cancer, physical disability and mental health problems or learning disabilities, or which provide youth education and training for disadvantaged people. Currently grants amount to around £350,000 each year.”

The Trustees’ original decision to sell the properties was taken to safeguard the ability of the Trust to maintain the payment of grants to charities in line with the purposes outlined by Miss Agnes Hunter when she set up the Trust in 1954 with the sole purpose of financially assisting charitable organisations which support health and social welfare in Scotland.

Alister Steele, managing director of Castle Rock Edinvar, a subsidiary of Places for People Scotland, has also written to the tenants introducing their new landlord.

He said: “We are pleased to be able to finally announce the purchase of the 92 properties from Agnes Hunter Trust and end a period of uncertainty for the residents. We have a proud track record in investing in Edinburgh’s housing stock and in managing the purchase of tenanted housing.

“We will now begin a dialogue with the residents to give reassurance on our commitment to the future of the properties and to discuss our services and investment plans. We would like to take this opportunity to thank the Scottish Government and City of Edinburgh for their help on this matter.”

Speaking on behalf of the City of Edinburgh Council, Councillor Cammy Day said: “I am really pleased that we have reached a positive solution for the residents of Lorne Street. The council and our partners have been working closely with tenants since they first approached us over a year ago with concerns that they might be made homeless. I am delighted that AHT and Castle Rock have reached this decision which will ensure that the tenants are able to remain in their homes, I know what a close-knit community they are.”

Kevin Stewart, minister for local government and housing, said: “I have been closely following the issue of the sale of the homes in Lorne Street by the Agnes Hunter Trust, and the welfare of the tenants, and I have met both the local MSP and MP on this matter to offer Scottish Government support.

“I am therefore delighted to hear that Castle Rock Edinvar HA, through its subsidiary Places for People Scotland, has agreed to purchase the homes from the Trust and will both retain the homes in the affordable sector and begin a programme of upgrading. I would like to congratulate Castle Rock Edinvar HA, Places for People Scotland and all those involved in this matter, including the City of Edinburgh Council, for their hard work and am pleased that the tenants now have some security in order to plan for the future.”

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