Flat Holm Island 'must be kept for public' if it goes up for sale
A heritage expert is pressing for a public trust to step in and purchase the Bristol Channel island of Flat Holm, before it is snapped up by a private buyer.
The Western Daily Press revealed last week that Cardiff Council has decided it wants to sell the island, which is steeped in natural and historical significance, to balance its books.
Planning and heritage specialist James Edwards, based at Colliers International in Bristol, said it is vital the 86-acre island is retained by a body such as the Landmark Trust – which owns Lundy Island further down the Bristol Channel – or a body such as the National Trust.
The island plays host to visitors via regular ferry crossings from South Wales and also Weston-super-Mare.
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It has a working lighthouse, a scattering of buildings, including a pub and gift shop, as well as residential accommodation and its own warden.
It has been visited by Vikings and Saxons and was garrisoned by the Victorians as well as in the Second World War.
Flatholm is around four miles from the Welsh coast and is considered part of Wales while Steep Holm, a smaller island nearer Weston-super-Mare, is part of England, but both are drowned outcrops of the Mendips.
Mr Edwards added: “The island's vital role in the past is reflected by the scheduled ancient monuments on site, as well as a number of listed buildings including a former isolation hospital, gun batteries and the lighthouse.
“The heritage contained on this one island is huge and there is a risk that in private ownership, this heritage may be lost to the wider public.
“Marconi transmitted the world’s first wireless radio broadcast over open sea from Flat Holm in 1897.”
“It would be a great shame if it were lost for good, which it could be unless there are specific clauses in any sale allowing accessby the public.”
“It is probably a case of not knowing the value of what you have got until it is gone.
“And there is always a risk that if it is sold into private ownership it will close its doors to the public for good.”
Mr Edwards – who is an expert on planning and heritage issues – said nearby Steepholm was owned by a charitable trust.
He added: “In an ideal world one would hope that the two islands could come under some kind of joint ownership to ensure that the mutual interest in the islands is retained.
“Both islands have a very rich heritage which could potentially be at risk if in private ownership and I would urge all parties to think long and hard before that happens.”
Rare plants such as rock sea-lavender and wild leek thrive and have helped the island, which is only a third of a mile across, win site of special scientific interest status. The island also has a significant population of gulls.