TENANTS facing eviction from their homes near Ilminster were set to meet landlords The Crown Estate for talks, following a heated public meeting.

More than 30 families in Staple Fitzpaine and surrounding villages in Neroche have been given between two and three months to either buy their homes or move out.

Many have lived in their homes for years and this move by the Crown Commissioners has left them devastated.

More than 140 people, including tenants, neighbours and local representatives attended a meeting at Neroche village hall on Thursday when an action group was formed.

Mark Kemp, a tenant since 2002, said they were given a tenancy to provide a long-term family home. He said: “We were evicted from there five years ago and moved to where we are now. This time there is no possibility for people to be re-homed.”

He added: “We are here as a community tonight and we must negotiate as a group. I had a meeting with Smiths Gore, the agents, to plan repairs to the farm and other forward-planning matters. Two weeks later I had a letter giving us notice to quit. It was a complete shock.”

County councillor Ross Henley was at the meeting, along with Cllr John Williams, leader of Taunton Deane Council, and they were set to join tenants at a meeting with Neil Jacobson, portfolio manager for The Crown Estate, yesterday (Tuesday).

The Estate has said it is selling a number of its properties to enable it to reinvest in other areas. Mr Jacobson said: “As an active manager of its assets The Crown Estate regularly reviews its portfolio to explore ways in which it can enhance the revenue it generates for the nation and the value of the assets it manages. The proposed sale of a number of residential properties on our Taunton estate is part of the process.”