Lake Vyrnwy: United Utilities and RSPB bid preferred
A water company has named its preferred bidders to take over large parts of the Lake Vyrnwy estate in Powys.
Severn Trent said a joint bid by United Utilities and RSPB Cymru was the right choice to develop the site while protecting the environment.
A public meeting was held on Monday evening to discuss the issue.
Some residents attending the meeting feared that selling the site to another water company would not result in sufficient investment.
Selling agents have described the 23,000 acre (93 sq km) site near the village of Llanwddyn, Montgomeryshire, as the largest land sale in living memory in England and Wales, with a value of £11m.
United Utilities and RSPB Cymru have jointly bid for the agricultural holdings at Lake Vyrnwy, while FIM Sustainable Timber & Energy LP was named preferred bidder for the estate's commercial woodland.
United Utilities provides water and waste water services to nearly seven million people in north west England, supplying more than three million households and more than 400,000 business premises.
The company said it would bring its previous expertise to Lake Vyrnwy, and would closely consult with local communities and special interest groups if its bid was successful.
Katie-Jo Luxton, director of RSPB Cymru, said: "RSPB Cymru is immensely proud of its long association with Lake Vyrnwy.
"As soon as we are in a position to do so, we look forward to working alongside United Utilities in engaging with the local community and other stakeholders, opening a dialogue with them on mutual opportunities and the potential shape of the management and visitor offer in the area which will ensure a sustainable future for the estate."
Ted Pearce, director of property at Severn Trent said: "Securing the long-term future of the Vyrnwy estate has been our key objective throughout this process.
"We have taken time to reach a decision about preferred bidders using a robust selection process to ensure that the bidders are the right ones for the community, the environment and the future development of the estate."
"We believe that the preferred bidders have demonstrated, and will continue to demonstrate during the consultation process their ability to meet these objectives and will provide the best future for the estate."
'All about profits'
The Lake Vyrnwy estate, with a 125-year lease, has a conservation area, nature reserve, sites of special scientific interest and several farms.
Around 100 people attended a meeting at the community centre in Abertridwr on Monday, the eighth to have been held over the past year about the sale of the estate.
One resident, Margaret Hughes, said she preferred a rival bid by north Wales businessman Rhys Jones.
"We're replacing one water company with another - it's all about profits to them," she said.
Merfyn Davies, another resident, was concerned about the future of the community without fresh investment.
"We want plenty of work for the people of Llanwddyn because they're disappearing," he said.
"The only place that gives the youngsters work is the Lake Vyrnwy Hotel."
Lord Elis-Thomas, former presiding officer of the Welsh assembly, has called for an inquiry into the sale of the estate.
Now chair of the assembly's environment and sustainability committee, he said there was "substantial public interest" in the matter.
The prospective buyers and seller will now enter into a three month statutory consultation with the Countryside Council for Wales over the details of the sale.