A last-ditch appeal has been launched to raise enough money to buy Pilton beauty spot Mannings Pit when it goes up for auction in two weeks.

North Devon MP Selaine Saxby presents a House of Commons bottle of wine signed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to the Friends of Mannings Pit.North Devon MP Selaine Saxby presents a House of Commons bottle of wine signed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to the Friends of Mannings Pit.

The Friends of Mannings Pit have raised £82,000 but the guide price for the land is £180,000 to £220,000, with the online auction scheduled to end on September 23.

The auction hosted by auctioneers Clive Emson had originally been planned for the end of March but was held up by the coronavirus pandemic.

The community group has fought for years to prevent development of the popular site, which has been used for leisure and relaxation by generations of Pilton people.

And the Friends have vowed to continue their fight to prevent housing being built on the land, whatever the outcome of the auction.

Clive Emson lists the site as 21 acres of pasture land but hints at possible future development in the long term.

North Devon MP Selaine Saxby visited Mannings Pit on Saturday (September 5) to show her support for the community campaign.

She said: “Any prospective buyer needs to know that there will be a fight on their hands if they try to develop this land.

“The local council were able, with help, to thwart the last attempt to build here. Lets not risk it again, let’s help residents buy Mannings Pit to secure it for future generations.

“The pandemic has highlighted to us all how important our open spaces are and it comes as no surprise to learn that Mannings Pit has been busier than ever over the last few months.”

The bid to purchase the land has seen donations from local developer David Wilson Homes and there has recently been a grant of £20,000 from the Garfield Weston Foundation.

Mannings Pit has been the subject of several development bids, with the last planning application for 41 homes withdrawn in 2018.

Friends chairman Christine Locklock said trying to raise enough money to buy the site was a mammoth task.

She said: “Our fund raising had been going well, but the one thing we hadn’t reckoned on was a pandemic!

“All the same, we are not giving up yet – if there is someone out there who can help us, please get in touch. This is the best chance we will have to purchase Manning’s Pit so that it will be safe for ever.”

Anyone who wishes to donate or contact the group can do so via www.manningspit.com or the Friends of Mannings Pit Facebook page.