Community prepares £2m bid for Lake District mountain

A community is lining up a £2m bid to purchase a mountain in the Lake District. In a first for England, one of the region’s most recognisable fells, Blencathra, has...

A community is lining up a £2m bid to purchase a mountain in the Lake District.

In a first for England, one of the region’s most recognisable fells, Blencathra, has been put on the market by the Earl of Lonsdale, Lord Lowther. He appeared on BBC1’s Countryfile programme, saying he had a £9m tax bill to pay.

The community quickly mobilised, and within seven days the Friends of Blencathra campaign was reporting that supporters had pledged £600,000 through its Facebook page and Sir Chris Bonnigton had joined as honorary president.

Friends of Blencathra say the 2,700-acre site should be sold to the public and is petitioning Lord Lonsdale to commit to that. The mountain, fondly known as Saddleback, has a price tag of £1.75m, £2.1m including VAT. Bids to H&H Land and Property must be received by 2 July.

A week after the Countryfile feature, over one hundred people met to discuss a community bid for Blencathra at Embleton Village Hall, near Cockermouth. The meeting heard that campaigners were trying to arrange face to face talks with Lord Lowther.

An interim steering group chaired by Debbie Cosgrove, a project manager at Allerdale Borough Council, is now considering the best way to raise funds, and whether a co-op or a charitable trust should be formed to take the bid forward and manage the asset.

Debra Coles of Co-operative and Mutual Solutions said the co-operative development body had advised Friends of Blencathra that a community benefit co-op would be the most democratic option. “We don’t think it’s going to be a share issue because there’s no income,” she said. “The annual rental income is just £1,000, from a field centre on the fell. But maybe later income could be developed.

“It could be a co-op and we’d really like it to be a co-op. We’ve given feedback and offered assistance and all we can do now is wait to see what the group decides.”

Options include buying Blencathra and handing administration and maintenance to the Lake District National Park Authority, or maintaining control of the mountain and developing a hydro, for which planning permission has already been granted, at its base.

Ms Cosgrove said the group would contact all stakeholders, including the national park authority, the National Trust, parish councils and farmers with common grazing rights on the mountain.

• For more details, visit: www.friendsofblencathra.co.uk or to make a pledge, email: [email protected].

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