Beauty spots in the heart of the Lake District are to be sold-off by the national park authority, including the 'iconic' Stickle Tarn at Langdale.

Significant budget cuts have forced the authority to re-evaluate its assets, prompting the controversial sales.

Chief executive Richard Leafe is adamant access and maintenance will not be affected and the authority's strict planning regulations will still apply to the new owners.

However, he refused to rule out further land sales across the national park, including the Lake District's third highest mountain, Helvellyn.


Some councillors and local residents fear that selling-off more than 100 acres will have negative connotations such as:

- Public access may be restricted

- Maintenance of the land may not be handled properly

- Privatisation may prevent the Lake District becoming a World Heritage Site

- Wealthy buyers may try to build on the land

Heidi Halliday, councillor for Ambleside and Grasmere, said: "This goes against the remit of the national park authority. I thought they were there to protect the national park but they are selling-off Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Will the highest bidder understand what they are getting themselves in to? We will have swathes of land in private ownership but what will these people know about woodland management?"

In total, seven plots of national park land are currently listed for sale to the highest bidder by Kendal-based land agents Michael C.L. Hodgson.

The most famous is Stickle Tarn, in Great Langdale.

The SSSI, a 24.23 acre body of water, is currently on the market with a guide price of £20,000-£30,000, a price so low it was described as 'an insult' by Langdale parish councillor Jean Birkett.

Elsewhere, the Grade A Special Area of Conservation at Yewbarrow Wood, Longsleddle, is expected to sell for £130,000 and other woodland at Lady Wood and Baneriggs Wood, both in Grasmere, is also on the market.

A 9.9 acre lakeside plot at Blea Brows, Coniston, described as being of 'immense amenity value' by the land agents, has a guide price of £90,000 and a 16.2 acre plot of Ambleside's Blue Hill and Red Bank Wood is also up for sale.

All plots are available to buy by formal tender, with the bidding process closing on Thursday, March 12.

Maureen Colquhoun, an Ambleside parish councillor, was angered to discover chunks of her area were on the market.

She said: "I'm absolutely horrified. They're destroying the national park and if they go on like this they won't get World Heritage status. We need people in the authority who are going to ensure that the national park isn't for sale - they've taken leave of their senses. They are totally letting down the people who live here."

South Lakes MP Tim Farron called for greater accountability from the national park authority.

"The time frame is incredibly short. I hope the national park will listen to local people and think again, even at this late hour," he said.

“This highlights the need for accountability in the governance of our national parks. None of the people who made this very controversial decision are directly elected. It seems wrong that we should lose so much vital land because of a decision taken by people who are unaccountable."

But Richard Leafe, chief executive of the Lake District National Park Authority, described the decision to sell-off the land as 'good management' in 'the existing financial climate'.

He said: "The way in which we operate, including the review of property and holding the right pieces of land for the right operational reasons, is set within the context of the existing financial climate. Just like any other public sector organisation, we have to review our services and assets to ensure we protect as many services as possible with reduced budgets."

Mr Leafe, 50, assured the public that access will be protected, in some cases by covenants.

"It's a really important consideration for us that we don't make it harder for the public to access the national park," he said.

"We will secure, as part of the sale, as much of the access rights as possible, which is pretty much all of them in every situation."

On maintenance, Mr Leafe said: "We want to sell this land to people or organisations who wish to manage it responsibly. We don't have to take the highest bid, we have to make the most appropriate choice."

The Gazette asked if the rest of the national park's non-commercial land could end up on the market.

He said: "What would be wrong with that? Sixty per cent of the national park is in private ownership, that doesn't mean it's not still fantastic. People need to get comfortable with the fact that land can be owned privately but public interests are protected and safeguarded by law - some of which we control directly. People can't assume just because we sell off a piece of land that the national park is going to go to hell in a hand cart."

He added that the sale of the land will not damage the Lake District's bid for World Heritage status.

Friends of the Lake District, an organisation dedicated to protecting the area, confirmed they have expressed an interest in several properties, and outdoor activity company Head to the Hills are heading-up a consortium of Lakes lovers who are looking to buy Stickle Tarn.


HAVE YOUR SAY: Should the Lake District National Park Authority sell off land assets like Stickle Tarn? Comment below...