Decision made over Severn Trent's Lake Vyrnwy estate
A new owner for a huge estate around Lake Vyrnwy in Powys has been chosen.
Utilities firm Severn Trent said it was now preparing for a three-month consultation process after which it would confirm the preferred buyer's identity.
However, a local councillor and MP both claimed a bid by United Utilities had been selected. The company would not comment.
Bids were submitted for the 23,000-acre beauty spot last year.
The only known bidders were north Wales businessman Rhys Jones, and the RSPB and Mid Wales Housing.
The estate with a 125-year lease, valued at £11m, has a conservation area, nature reserve, sites of special scientific interest and several farms.
Near the village of Llanwddyn in the old county of Montgomeryshire, the estate has been described as the largest land sale in living memory in England and Wales, by the selling agents Knight Frank.
The lots include 12,000 acres of farmland and 5,000 acres of forestry.
A Severn Trent spokeswoman said: "After careful consideration Severn Trent Water has chosen its preferred bidder.
"We are now making preparations to begin the three-month consultation with the Countryside Council for Wales after which we will be able to confirm the identity of the buyer."
The estate was for sale on a 125-year lease and was being sold in four lots. Several meeting have been held with its tenants and other residents since news broke of its sale in July last year.
Last November, a survey of residents placed the creation of local jobs as the top priority for a new owner.
Powys county councillor Simon Baynes, who represents Llanwddyn, a village near Lake Vyrnwy, said Llanwddyn Community Council would be holding a public meeting on 25 July to discuss the sale.
"We do not know at this stage whether United Utilities will be able to attend, but the meeting will follow the seven previous public meetings that have been held over the last year about the sale of the Lake Vyrnwy estate and will provide a forum for the community to discuss their views about the future."
Local MP Glyn Davies, writing on Facebook, said: "Almost everyone from the local area is going to be really let down. They all wanted it to go to a private sector buyer named Rhys Jones".
A spokesman for Mr Jones said he had spent a considerable amount of time and cost in assembling the bid and was "clearly disappointed" at the outcome.
Mr Jones said "I thank everyone who has supported me particularly the local people and the community.
"Wales is very important to me and I wanted to invest near where I was brought up as I believe it deserves future economic prosperity. I will leave others to consider matters and I wish the local people well."
According to its website, United Utilities provides water and wastewater services to nearly 7m people in the north west of England supplying 3.2m households and more than 400,000 business premises.