French energy company EDF has purchased the Dungeness Estate on the southern Kent coast, which used to belong to filmmaker Derek Jarman, for £1.5 million. EDF already owns the Dungeness B power station just next to the estate, making it one of the largest employers in the area.
The previous owners of the estate have said that they are happy to sell it to EDF: “After the decision was made to sell the estate,” said trustee Maurice Ede, “it was important that the purchaser would have the ability, track record and correct intentions of maintaining an estate such as this. We are very happy to be passing that responsibility to EDF Energy.”
EDF’s nearby Dungeness B power station generates over £40 million for the local economy, they have said in a statement, making them the biggest employer in the local area. They have made a big deal about their existing presence in the community throughout the new purchase. Dungeness B’s station director, Martin Pearson, said: “We’re delighted to be the purchasers of the estate and want to reassure the community that it is our intention to be a responsible owner of the land.”
“Dungeness B has been a huge part of the community for over 30 years” he went on, “many of our employees live in the area and we bring business to local suppliers. We’ve always working alongside the local community to preserve and enhance this unique environment and EDF energy is committed to this.”
Dungeness, described by some as Britain’s ‘only desert’, is a fairly barren landscape. The population is relatively small and much of the land is taken up by expanses of shingle. It has become an oddly popular tourist attraction, mainly because of its unique landscape, with somewhere close to a million visitors going there every year.
The estate, which measures some 468 acres, sits on the shingle beach and has been generating an income of around £130,000 a year from a combination of commercial fishing deals, residential leases and land licenses that allow the shingle to be moved around in order to protect both the natural coast and EDF’s existing Dungeness B power station.
A spokesman for the Dungeness resident’s association said: “EDF is a close neighbour with whom we have shared Dungeness for many years. As of yet we do not know how the relationship between EDF and residents will be managed. However, I am optimistic about the future of this relationship and the estate, given that EDF has already begun engaging with residents about the sale and has working knowledge of the land and the relevant conservation designations that apply to this remarkable part of Kent.”
Exactly what EDF plans to do with the land remains to be seen, but they have made special efforts to comfort the sellers and local residents regarding conservation of the area. And it seems to be working – the former estate owners and residents’ association alike seem to be, at least outwardly, firmly behind EDF’s acquisition.