SVA left £1.5m in banker's will

THE LARGEST ever bequest in its 162-year history has been left to Sidmouth's Sid Vale Association.

THE LARGEST ever bequest in its 162-year history has been left to Sidmouth's Sid Vale Association.SVA chairman, the Reverend Handel Bennett confirmed the bequest, from member Keith Owen, 69, who died of cancer last December. He said it would "be in excess of £1million, probably £1.5million" although the final sum is not yet known.However, while a new museum is on SVA's wish list, this money comes with specific conditions.The Keith Owen Trust (SVA) will invest the capital sum, which cannot be spent, and its annual dividends - expected to be around £60-£80,000 - will be used "to protect, develop and improve for the benefit of the public, the beauties, amenities and heritage of the Valley of the River Sid in East Devon and its environs by stimulating pubic interest."Mr Owen, whose late mother Ellen lived in Sidmouth, believed the town was how England used to be and how he liked it to be.He specified the capital remain untouched and its income be used in voluntary activities to enhance the environment for residents. This could include tree and bulb planting, attracting walkers and visitors by providing seats and maintaining footpaths, involving youngsters and promoting SVA through competitions.There is no likelihood SVA could spend money on purchasing part of Port Royal, "which needs millions, rather than tens of thousands" said member John Dyson, who welcomed the bequest.Also a town councillor and on the SVA's investment committee to administer the endowment, he said: "This is great news for the association ... a shot in the arm for Sidmouth's active and wide ranging voluntary sector."Mr Owen suggested life could be enhanced in the Sid Valley by "provision of an auditorium on SVA land to feature lectures on natural history or open-air concerts". Money could be used for green land conservation, protection of the local environment or for 'quality' material to be displayed in the museum.Mr Bennett said: "We have not approached anyone about anything yet. It will make a lot of difference to the SVA. The money will give us the freedom to do some of the things we have been unable to tackle in the past."Mr Dyson felt Sidmouth in Bloom and the Hopper bus service might be eligible for help.Send your ideas to the Herald at 106 High Street, Sidmouth, EX10 8EF.

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