PLANS to sell off Devon County Council residential homes have suffered a set back after Shaw Healthcare announced it was withdrawing from negotiations.The controversial \u00A3100 million transfer 26 homes had led to opposition and dismay from residents and their relatives who feared what would happen once homes were sold and redeveloped.Those affected in North Devon included Oakwell in Barnstaple, Beech House in South Molton, Burrow House in Ilfracombe and Fairlea in Bideford.It had originally been hoped the papers would be signed in May of last year, but Shaw has decided the "process of community engagement" was more extensive than they could commit to given their other priorities. The company has now decided to focus its resources on other major projects which are closer to agreement.The county council received confirmation of the care provider's intentions this week, and the announcement was made to councillors at a meeting of the full council yesterday (Thursday.)The council Executive had agreed in December to continue negotiations with Shaw, but on a smaller scale than originally envisaged in large part due to unprecedented changes in the financial climate.The council has said it is committed to a further period of "community engagement" before inviting other potential partners to come forward with development proposals.In the meantime, services at each of the residential homes continue will unchanged. "We understand the reasons why Shaw Healthcare has made this decision. We would like to thank them for the amount of work and commitment they have put into Devon since they were appointed as preferred provider," said Councillor Hugo Barton, Executive Member for Adult and Community Services. "The decision by Shaw will not affect the plans to develop our residential homes to meet the needs of the increasing numbers of older people in Devon. "We will continue to do this in partnership with other organisations and care providers who are keen to be involved in the exciting, but challenging, programme we are embarked upon. "As we have always stressed, completing a contract with Shaw Healthcare was not a done deal and that no decisions about any service developments at our homes have been taken and this remains the case."We still face a growing pressure in delivering adult care services and as agreed by the all-party Executive in 2004, we must find the right way of addressing this pressure.