Forced sale

THE COUPLE selling Rock Cottage, one of Sidmouth s most desirable seafront homes, have responded to a suggestion they have cheated the National Trust out of £500,000.

THE COUPLE selling Rock Cottage, one of Sidmouth's most desirable seafront homes, have responded to a suggestion they have "cheated" the National Trust out of £500,000.

Tom and Laura Griffiths, who have lived at the cottage orné style home for 15 years, restoring it from dereliction to operate bed and breakfast accommodation, bought it from the National Trust last July for a reported £937,000.

On Saturday it went on the market with Harrison-Lavers & Potbury's and Exeter's Strutt & Parker, for a guide price of £1.5 million.

Reacting to the news that the Sidmouth Herald had received anonymous remarks from someone "outraged" to learn the charity had been "cheated out of half a million", Mrs Griffiths said: "I have given my heart and soul to this house. Everything we have we pile into this place. We have lived in it, looked after it, brought up a family here and had people in here.

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"It is a house everyone can enjoy and I take it very personally that someone should say that."

John Channon, property manager of the National Trust, said: "I am disappointed the Griffithses are selling after such a short time. I understood they were going to stay there for several years.

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"I don't know the reasons they are selling or if it was opportunistic. There was certainly nothing underhand going on when we agreed to sell."

However, he said he would be asking questions of Strutt & Parker, one of its charity's three independent valuers involved at the time of the sale.

"Here we are nine months later with a price substantially higher, and that makes me think how come?"

One of the reasons the couple, who have two teenage sons, decided to sell the property so soon was Mrs Griffiths' health.

Last year, although sick in bed with pneumonia, she swam out to help Adam Baker rescue four young children from an icy riptide. This, said her husband: "really knocked her for six, and has drained her energy".

Mr Griffiths said he "felt awful" about having to sell Rock Cottage after tending it for so long.

"The National Trust has hardly been cheated. It was derelict when they let it to us. Last year they had valuations and I paid for an independent one, which was £60,000 more than theirs."

Mr Channon said the couple had discounts for the work put into the building, which is sold with an NT covenant restricting alterations.

He said hefty monthly repayments meant putting "everything I earn" into Rock Cottage.

"I just want to have a bit of a life again. We could afford to stay here but our lifestyle would have to change, we would never have a holiday and it is detrimental to Laura's health and probably our marriage as well."

There was no-one available from Strutt & Parker to comment as the Herald went to press.

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