The home and business of Mal Hussain and Linda Livingstone are being bought by an anti-racist organisation, The 1990 Trust, from donations it is raising from the public.
The trust's scheme, Shares in Anti-Racism, was launched yesterday with the intention of providing financial support to victims of racial discrimination and harassment. Potential donors are invited to make their contribution after studying the trust's Internet website. In return, they will receive certificates of shares in the programme.
Ryelands Mini-Market, at Ryelands Estate in Lancaster, owned by Mr Hussain and Ms Livingstone, has been the target of more than 2,000 attacks in nine years, including shootings, fire bombings and stonings. The trust says that after the purchase, the building will be used as a neighbourhood anti-racist centre, as well as a shop.
Lancaster Council had offered to buy the property, owned by Mr Hussain and his partner, for pounds 64,000 - a figure the couple say would leave them with a serious loss on their investment. The trust hopes to offer pounds 120,000 for the store and the stock.
The council stated that under existing legislation it was only allowed to make an offer for "bricks and mortar", and not for goods. It also said the valuation of pounds 64,000 was made five years ago, and a new valuation could, in fact, be lower because of decreasing property prices in the area.
Mr Hussain and Ms Livingstone had unsuccessfully sought to sue the council for alleged negligence in failing to prevent its tenants' harassment at the estate. Earlier this year, the House of Lords ruled that such a legal action was inadmissible. Mr Hussain is now considering taking the matter to the European Court.
Yesterday, he said: "From the day of our arrival, we have been subjected to racist crimes of the worst kind. We have always looked to the local authorities and the law to protect us. We feel we have been let down by these agencies again and again, they have failed in their civic and moral duties to protect us from this racist hell. Our existence on Ryelands is worse than a prison sentence."
As well as buying out Mr Hussain and Ms Livingstone, the trust planned to hold a vigil around the property last night to protect it from attacks. It claimed the council was backing plans for a bonfire, which could become an excuse for violence. The council, however, denies being involved.
Lee Jasper, director of The 1990 Trust, said: "Mal and Linda want to leave the estate after what they have suffered, and we are helping them."
Councillor Carol Broad, housing chairwoman for Lancaster Council, said: "It is simply untrue to say that we have failed to support Mr Hussain. Eight people are serving prison sentences for actions against Mr Hussain due to evidence supplied by professional witnesses employed by the city council."Reuse content