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Looking to own your own Devon Village then we have just the place

29 May 2014

Life seems simpler and better in Bantham. Walk around the wide, sandy bay and all you can hear is the wind, the waves and the sound of children laughing. Or are they property developers? Rumours abound in this remote and beautiful settlement on the South Devon Heritage Coast. The beach and the village have been put up for sale this weekend – lock, stock and tiny shop – for £11.5 million. Some say Russian oligarchs have already been circling overhead in their helicopters, and limousines with blacked-out windows have been seen in the beach car park, although none are visible today. And the man who is handling one of Britain’s most remarkable sales insists that, despite reports, Bantham will not just be sold to the highest bidder. “The owners have categorically said it is not about price, it is about finding the right person,” says James Baker of Strutt & Parker estate agents in Exeter, speaking to The Telegraph. Still, the locals are worried. “We are afraid that our way of life will be destroyed if Bantham falls into the wrong hands,” says one, walking a dog along the only street in the village. This is dominated by a long row of thatched, whitewashed cottages with identical green doors. They belong to the Evans family who has owned most of the land and property in Bantham for almost a century. But now the family is selling up, thanks to the death of the founder’s granddaughter and a row about a burger van. Brochures have been sent out detailing the estate on offer, which includes the beach and 728 acres of land as well as a golf course. There’s a mooring, a thatched boathouse on the River Avon and an oyster farm. The buyer will become Lord of Bigbury, on the other side of the river. They will also acquire the shop and 22 residential properties in Bantham. The villagers fear the protected leases on their homes could be cancelled if Bantham is turned into a ghost village, a private playground for some wealthy owner. Or worse, commercialised as a resort. “There are very few places on earth as beautiful as this,” says Barbara Tucker, who runs the shop, and it is easy to see what she means. After a long and winding drive through a single track road in deep Devon countryside, Bantham emerges suddenly with its one pub, The Sloop. There are some private houses and holiday homes, but the eye is drawn to those perfectly preserved 17th-century cottages – and then to the far end of the village, where a path leads to the sand dunes and the beach, the only good place to surf for many miles around. “It is very special,” says the shopkeeper. “That is why we are hoping and praying for someone who understands Bantham and wants to buy the village for what it is.” The National Trust says it is considering launching an appeal to buy Bantham and its coastline for all. Sir Richard Branson has been named as someone who loves the place and might save it. James Baker insists that the Evans family trust wants much the same thing as the villagers. The directors will seek to interview any prospective buyer about their plans. “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.” They are looking for someone with the same ethos, he says. “That has always been their motive.” So if someone offers the highest price but does not share that ethos, the trust directors will not accept the bid? “It’s not for me to accept on behalf of our clients, but if they are true to what they say then they wouldn’t, no. Who knows what will happen? They have categorically said it’s not about price, it’s the right person. So I think that is true.” Lieutenant Commander Charles Evans began buying up Bantham in 1918. His granddaughter, Gillian Goddard, lived there for many years and was going to leave her share of the estate to the local people in trust, but reportedly changed her mind – and her will – as a result of the “enormous reaction” by a few villagers when she let an environmentally friendly gourmet burger van called The Gastrobus set up each day by the beach. Her husband, Tony, said earlier this year: “She was deeply upset by the suggestion that she and her fellow directors, having looked after the estate for all these years, would do something that was against the policy of preserving the estate. “Her idea of leaving her company shares on the estate on trust for the village disappeared overnight.” Her death in November is said locally to have prompted the sale, although the agent says he has been preparing for it for more than a year. Source - The Telegraph

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