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Housesitters are being paid to occupy an 18th Century mansion to prevent squatters from moving in.

Grade II* Listed Patcham Place in Preston Road, Brighton, has been empty since 2007 when the Youth Hostels Association’s lease expired.

Since then, Brighton and Hove City Council has paid private firm Camelot Property Management to ensure the £2 million building does not become overrun by squatters.

The London-based firm has recruited a group of seven people who pay a “peppercorn rent” to live in the property.

While it is the only public building in the city to be currently housed in such a way, it is thought other buildings in the city are “occupied” by private companies for similar reasons.

The revelation follows news that squatters had moved into a £1 million house near Preston Park, leading some to claim the council had not done enough to maintain their empty properties. For full report see today's Argus