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Villagers Unite to Secure Crown

The Glasgow Herald, 1 March 1997, page 3

Residents of a tiny rural village celebrated yesterday after they stopped plans to open a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre by raising more than £175,000 in three days.

Villagers in Burton Leonard, North Yorkshire, raised the money after hearing that the charity Addiction Recovery Training Service was about to buy the Crown House nursing home on the village green.

Within three days, well over £175,000 had been pledged by just 50 families in the village.

The home's owner, Rosemary Swann, accepted their offer and contracts were exchanged yesterday - just five days after fundraising started.

Mr Denis Muldoon, chairman of Burton Leonard Management Company, set up by the villagers to buy the property, said: "We are all so relieved.

"We had to focus our minds to do it but our village was threatened by these people.

"Our problems are now over, although we feel for any other community threatened in this way. But we're not unique - I'm sure there are communities like Burton Leonard all over the country."

The villagers' fight began after they heard that the charity, which is run by Mr Kenneth Eckersley, a member of the American Scientology church congregation, planned to turn the whitewashed property into a centre for 16 former addicts.

After objections failed, the villagers hastily organised a meeting at which they pledged to use savings to make a last-ditch attempt to stop the plans.

Post office owner Mrs Gerlinde Godber said: "This is a very quiet village and we were concerned for the safety of the children and everyone else.

"It was never 'not in my back yard' - it was just not the ideal spot for it. A celebration march will be held in the village, which has a population of 473, on Sunday, after which the new owners will have to decide where to relocate the home's seven remaining elderly residents.

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