UK & World News
Mountain Sale Battle Heading For The Courts
A row over who should own a Lake District mountain could end up in the courts after walkers had it recognised as a community asset.
More than 6,000 people joined a campaign group to buy the 2,848 foot (878 metre) high Blencathra range when it was put up for sale in May by the Earl of Lonsdale, Hugh Lowther.
The group, Friends of Blencathra, say they were advised to offer less than the £1.75m guide price, which led to them being outbid by an unnamed private buyer.
Last week, the group persuaded Eden District Council to list the mountain under the Localism Act which gives communities six months to raise the money needed to buy registered assets and an opportunity to apply for funds.
Now it is claimed lawyers could get involved after agents for the owner announced they are going ahead with plans to sell the mountain to the successful bidder.
If that happens, Eden District Council leader Gordon Nicolson told Sky News that he expects the community group will ask the council for help.
"If the Friends of Blencathra were unhappy about the sale the first place they would come is knocking on our door, and because this has never happened before our first thing to do would be to take further (legal) advice," he said.
The Friends of Blencathra say they can afford to pay £1.75m and want to protect the mountain for future generations.
"It's all about the community spirit and everybody wanting to keep the Lake District how it's been for hundreds of years," said Mike Alston, a member of the group.
Lord Lonsdale, who is selling Blencathra to help pay a tax bill following the death of his father, the seventh Earl of Lonsdale, was not available for interview.
But his agents, H&H Land and Property, said a provision of the Localism Act exempts the Blencathra estate under inheritance tax rules and insisted the sale would go ahead as planned.
In a statement, director John Robson said: "The Friends of Blencathra have achieved much in a short space of time, but their bid was significantly below the guide price.
"The estate will now move towards exchange with the successful party."