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The future of the 400 residents of West Heslerton – a small village in the heart of Yorkshire – is hanging by a thread. A wealthy English family has transformed it into a lovely place over the last 150 years, allowing tens of families to live in dignity while paying a very reasonable rent. Now, the village is for sale.

Everything finished when the last owner, Miss Eve Dawnay, died in 2010 without heirs: in addition to the loss of a dear person who was part of the “family”, residents had to accept that their homes and activities were put in sale as if they were normal uninhabited apartments. An entire community, therefore, had to learn to deal with an uncertain future, in which the arrival of a new owner might have meant skyrocketing rents. Or even eviction. A slap in the face of their peace of mind, a blow that left them hanging, waiting to know who will take the place of the old heiress.

“Miss Dawnay was delicious – said Mr. Watson touched, the real estate agent in charge of the sale of the village – and I hope that the future buyer is going to be just as kind to the residents.”  Families living in West Herleston, which may be thrown out into the street overnight.

Eve Dawnay left no clear instructions in her last will: the village can be sold, but only to someone who will respect the place and will not distort it, and above all, will not raise monthly rents. Yet, in the truth of the situation, no one can say what is going to happen. “I think there are two future possibilities – says Mr. Watson -. There will be either a person with a purely commercial mind who will raise prices, or a business man who has enough money to keep rents low”. The generosity and the not particularly commercial mindset of the former owner have allowed many people to live in West Heslerton, actually creating a heterogeneous population: young couples, the elderly, and families with children. Long story short, it is not a place for rich people.

Now, for the modest sum of 20 million pounds, someone might make a bargain: the village has 43 cottages, a gas station, a church, a pub, and a manor house with 21 bedrooms. “We have received inquiries from all over the UK, but also from Saudi Arabia and Scandinavia – says the real estate agent – but if there were two equivalent tenders, and one of the two bidders were more benevolent, the latter would be undoubtedly preferred.” Thus, also Mr. Watson hopes that the new owner will be like Miss Dawney.

“We love this place and it is impossible to find another village whose residents would be as honest and delicious as here – specifies Verena Elliott, sister of the deceased owner – there is a sense of community here that is hard to find nowadays.” The village is for sale, but everyone hopes that it is going to remain the way it is, nailed 50 years ago when values came before personal profit and the lives of the people were not offered for sale. Not even for 20 million pounds.

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