CROWN Estate tenants near Ilminster who are fighting eviction from their homes won the backing of councillors at a packed meeting.

Members of Taunton Deane scrutiny committee met last week to hear about the plight of families who live in 45 estate properties in Somerset.

This includes 15 in the Neroche parish, including Staple Fitzpaine, Bickenhall, Orchard Portman, Curland and Thurlbear, and a further 21 properties in Taunton Deane.

Shocked tenants were given between two and three months to move out and formed an action group, Forced Out, demanding a rethink by the Crown.

Now, councillors have backed their calls and last Thursday unanimously backed a resolution to write to the Crown Estate, its agents, commissioners, the Treasury, Prime Minister and the Queen to request they formally withdraw the threat of eviction for all Crown tenants in Somerset immediately.

In a bid to protect the rural communities affected by the estate sales, councillors are also asking the Crown to “commit that where they sell vacant properties in Somerset that these are not sold on the open market to non-local residents who intend to buy these as second homes, which already threatens the local economy in parts of Somerset.”

Ruth King, who was been given until July to leave her cottage, said: “It was completely overwhelming to see so many people supporting us and being so outspoken about why this is important.

“Everyone there completely understood our situation and was outraged at how we are being treated and the way the Crown Estate is behaving.”

And they will “emphasise that it was not a question of legality but of moral and ethical responsibility to stop the intended evictions that would tear the heart out of local communities”.

Ken Jones, director of the Crown Estate’s Rural and Coastal Portfolio, said: “Parliament established The Crown Estate as an independent business, with a clear commercial remit to benefit the public finances.

“Whilst many tenants are understandably upset by the news that notice is being served on their occupation, there are also numerous instances where families have been keen to take up our offer for them to buy.

“Conscious that many cannot afford to buy, we have gone well beyond the statutory two-month notice periods for market-rented properties such as these."