After a approximately a year of speculation, residents of the picturesque village of Bantham near Kingsbridge, South Devon have had their worst fears confirmed, as their home village has been placed on the market for offers in excess of £11.5 million.
The village is part of an estate belonging to The Evans Estates which consists of 730 acres of land, an 18-hole golf course and one of Britain’s most popular beaches, which was once described by SurfUk as having “the most consistent beach break in South Devon”. A number of buildings including the only pub, are not included in the sale.
Interest in the estate is thought to be high, with Russian oligarchs rumoured to be interested in the site. This is the very reason residents have become worried, with one villager saying:
“We are afraid that our way of life will be destroyed if Bantham falls into the wrong hands”
Bantham and the surroundings have been protected by The Evans Estate for almost 100 years , beginning in 1918 when Lieutenant Commander Charles Evans bought in the area.
James Baker of Strutt & Parker, the agents dealing with the sale of the estate is adamant that Evans Estates are looking for the same thing as the villagers, stating:
“Our brief is to find somebody who is going to preserve and look after the estate, as The Evans Estates have done in the last almost 100 years.”
“The owners have categorically said it is not about price, it is about finding the right person”
Residents though, are still concerned and a number of letters and emails have been received by the National Trust begging them to purchase the estate.
The National Trust is Europe’s largest conservation trust and is said to be considering the prospect of purchasing the estate. David Ford, Genereal Manager for the South West says:
“The sale of Bantham Beach and village is extremely significant, it is one of the most beautiful and unspoilt areas in South Devon. We are now actively discussing what role the Trust might play in helping to protect the area from significant development risk.”
However, with the agent looking to complete a sale in the next couple of months, and with foreign interest high, it looks unlikely that the National Trust will be able to come to the rescue in time. Whilst the Trust could potentially stump up the funds, it would take months of fundraising to do so.
Rod Seymour, landlord at The Sloop, which as previously mentioned, is not part of the estate, is upset at the possibility of change:
“People come here because nothing has changed in years. There are the sand dunes, the beach, the sea. For families, it is like going back to nature. It would be such a shame to see it over‑commercialised – then it could be any beach on the south coast of England.”
Mr Seymour believes that Gillian Goddard, Granddaughter of Lieutenant Commander Charles Evans, encouraged families to live in the cottages full time and work in the area, but is concerned, along with the majority of the villagers, that the purchasers will be looking for a substantial return and to develop the site to do so.
The fate of Bantham and its residents is by no means sealed and there is every possibility that they will find a purchaser willing to preserve the village’s way of life. Many villages have even highlighted Sir Richard Branson as a prospective purchaser, as he is a frequent visitor to the area.