Dartington Estate in row over 'shadowy' dossier on opponents

By Jonathan Morris
BBC News Online

Published
image source, Save Dartington campaigners
image captionOpponents to the sale of land have been listed with their personal interests in an estate document

A cash-strapped country estate selling land for housing has compiled a "shadowy list" of personal information on objectors, it has emerged.

The list of Save Dartington members included information on personal relationships and interests.

Save Dartington accused the Dartington Hall estate in Devon of "becoming increasingly paranoid" about those opposed to the sale of land.

The trust, which accepted it was a trust document, declined to comment.

image source, Herbythyme/Creative Commons
image captionIn 2019 the trust listed a number of measures to try and balance the books

The Dartington Hall estate, a centre for learning, ecology and the arts, was created in 1925 when American heiress Dorothy Elmhirst and husband Leonard bought the 1,200 acres of land and buildings dating back to the 14th Century.

In 2019 the Dartington Hall Trust said it was losing about £8,000 a day and listed a number of measures to try to balance the books.

Among the measures was the sale of parcels of land for housing, which has attracted opposition from campaigners Save Dartington.

In a document seen by campaigners, more than 20 members were listed alongside details of where they lived, membership of organisations such as local authorities and other groups including Extinction Rebellion.

Other lines attached to some members included information about personal relationships, where they went to school, former workplaces, interests and activities such as music, art and a gym membership.

image source, Elmhirst family archive
image captionDorothy Elmhirst and husband Leonard bought the land and historic buildings in 1925

Rob Hopkins, from Save Dartington, said: "I feel really sad that somehow in the culture at the top of that organisation they would prefer to make shadowy lists of our members than to really listen.

"They are sitting in a bunker becoming increasingly paranoid about the people that oppose them.

"It also raises important questions of how people's personal data is managed and if it was made available to staff, which is quite troubling."

The estate told staff in February that since the announcement about its financial situation in 2019, "savings of over £1m have been made".

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