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'A million reasons why we will buy Blencathra'
A million pounds has been pledged by the public to buy Blencathra since it was put up for sale.
The Westmorland Gazette reported last week that the mountain has been placed on the market for £1.75m as cash-strapped Lord Lonsdale struggles to pay £9m inheritance tax.
There has been ‘substantial foreign interest’ in the sale of the 2,676 acre site and a source has fuelled speculation that a Russian billionaire is potentially going to be one of the bidders.
Public action group Friends of Blencathra is attempting to raise money to buy the mountain and it was revealed that there has already been 6,000 pledges.
They fear that if a foreign investor buys the mountain it may be poorly maintained ‘and it would become just another thing in their portfolio.’
The Friends are now attempting to make the mountain a community asset. To gain this status, Eden District Council must agree that Blencathra is vital to the recreational, cultural and social character of the local community, which is possible given the volume of people who regularly use it for walking, running, microlighting and farming.
If agreed, it could trigger a ‘moratorium period’, delaying Lord Lonsdale’s sale of the land by six months, giving the action group more time to raise the funds.
The Friends want to gazump non-local bidders after it was claimed Lord Lonsdale had refused to hold discussions with the public action group prior to the July 2 sale.
But a spokesperson for Lonsdale Estates revealed that he may still choose to sell the mountain, also known as Saddleback, to the public.
“We will receive all closed bids on July 2 but it will not necessarily be sold to the highest bidder,” she said.
Debbie Cosgrove, chairman of Friends of Blencathra, said: “The Lonsdales would become local heroes if they worked with us and that would be worth more than the money we’d give them for the mountain.”
There has also been celebrity backing and pledges from stars such as Ben Fogle, Melvyn Bragg and Sir Chris Bonington, who is now the Honorary Chairman of Friends of Blencathra.
“The celebrity backing is important because it shows there’s a whole raft of people from many walks of life that are supporting us,” said an action group spokesperson.
“It proves that whilst we all move in different circles, we all love Blencathra. The mountain is like a call to home when you see it.”
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“We will raise the money. Absolutely, 100 per cent,” said Ms Cosgrove.
“We already have £1million pledged and if even half the people who’ve been in touch actually come forward and pay up we’ll do it. We want to see it owned by people who would take responsibility for it. This is about doing some good for the area. it’s about becoming part of the Big Society.”
Among those pledging is Elspeth Mungall, of Madison, Wisconsin, America, who said: “I am not worried about a foreigner owning Blencathra, but I feel it should belong to the people who live in its shadow and those who visit the area, from wherever they live. I’m worried the laws could change but I know we could trust the local people. I grew up outside Keswick and when I visit, as soon as I see Blencathra I know I’m home.”
And Rose Paterson, of Singapore, said: “I have such fond memories of the mountain and I feel it would be a shame if the upkeep of it was taken on by somebody who had less attachment. I feel that people with a sense of connection to a place can do a better job as landowners.
“Blencathra is a lasting symbol for family time I spent as child paddling and walking in the beautiful Lake District.”
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