Mill custodian vows to stay put

A MILL custodian has pledged to defy an order to leave her cottage home followng an 18-month wrangle with a local authority and an historic buildings trust.

A MILL custodian has pledged to defy an order to leave her cottage home followng an 18-month wrangle with a local authority and an historic buildings trust.

Linda Joslin, custodian of Billingford Mill, near Diss, said hundreds of people had signed a petition in her support.

"No way am I leaving," she said.

But the Norfolk Historic Buildings Trust, which owns the cottage, said: "The law must now take its course".

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Ms Joslin, formerly of Sudbury, was appointed mill custodian three years ago but soon ran into problems over the terms of the lease she was eventually asked to sign.

It would have made her responsible for the repair and maintenance of the building and she refused to give her signature, claiming the condition had never been mentioned before.

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Eighteen months ago she was locked out of the mill and ordered to leave the nearby cottage which is her home.

In April last year Ms Joslin received an apology from Norfolk County Council, which owns the mill, after an internal investigation found the dispute had been mismanaged.

Three months later another apology was issued by the council's chief executive, Tim Byles, over the efforts to make her legally responsible for the mill machinery and delays in carrying out repairs to the cottage.

It was also suggested that negotiations could restart over the lease of the mill, cottage and former smithy, now used by Ms Joslin as a craft and produce shop.

However, efforts have since continued to get Ms Joslin to vacate the cottage and shop and a notice to quit is due to expire on June 16.

"They say they want to sell the cottage and smithy because they need the money but I doubt this is the case. The whole thing is ludicrous," she said.

Ms Joslin said people often turned up at the mill expecting to be able to look round the interior and could not understand why it remained shut.

"A film crew was given permission to go in there recently and they encountered mice and rat droppings. The whole place is infested," she said.

She intends, following the forthcoming elections, to present the newly elected MEP for the area with a petition containing more than 400 signatures in her support.

"I understand European money was used in the restoration of the mill but the building is currently being allowed to deteriorate," she added.

John Birkbeck chairman of the Norfolk Historic Buildings Trust, said: "I am sorry Ms Joslin feels as she does. It is never nice to turn anyone out of their home but she has had a lot of time to make alternative arrangements.

"We have abided by the law and I hope she will as well. The law will have to take its course."

Mr Birkbeck said sale of the cottage was an option because of the need to finance other work.

"It was originally bought to restore and to help the Windmills Trust get someone for the mill but it hasn't worked out," he added.

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