Walkers on Hall's Fell Ridge, a popular ascent route on Blencathra

Walkers on Hall's Fell Ridge, a popular ascent route on Blencathra

A group which wants to register a Lake District mountain as a community asset says a council has reneged on a pledge to deal with the application before the closing date for the fell’s sale.

But Eden District Council says its officers dealing with the request never promised to complete the process before the deadline for bids to buy Blencathra.

The fell, described by author Alfred Wainwright as ‘a mountaineer’s mountain’ is being sold by its owner Lord Lonsdale, to pay off part of an inheritance tax bill.

Although the Friends of Blencathra said Berghaus has pledged a substantial donation, the sales agents warned that, because of the level of interest from potential vendors, the original £2.1m selling price estimate is likely to be revised upwards.

“A Berghaus spokesperson said: “Berghaus has offered to help in the event that a locally formed charitable organisation’s offer is accepted, but obviously all details must remain confidential.

“Berghaus’s sole aim is to ensure that Blencathra remains available to all who love the great outdoors.”

The Friends have applied to Eden council, in whose area the fell stands, to register it as a community asset under the coalition Government’s Localism Act. This would give the community group six months to raise the necessary cash.

But a war of words has broken out, with the Friends saying the council has broken its word and risks jeopardising the bid, while the authority has pointed out it must follow the correct procedures to make the process fair.

Ally Hudson of the Friends said: “To be effective this [the community asset application] has to be completed before the deadline of the 2 July for sealed bid, so by 1 July for the decision.

The Friends want to register Blencathra as a community asset

The Friends want to register Blencathra as a community asset

“However it came to my attention on Thursday that the legal department have set a provisional date of 7 July which is outside the deadline, this is despite me being told previously by both an officer and an honourable and respected member of the council that it would be resolved by 1 July.”

The Friends urged supporters to email the council to try to get them to speed up the process.

It said Eden Council said any sale of the land would take eight weeks, but the sales particulars from the agents said it would be completed within 10 days.

A council spokesperson said: “The application from the Friends of Blencathra Group to list Blencathra as a community asset was received by the council at 11.07pm on 3 June.

“Eden District Council has a maximum of eight weeks to determine this application.

“The council has to inform owners and occupiers of the land and interested parties such as local parish councils. The council has to consider whatever representations these parties wish to make before it makes a decision.

“The interested parties were sent notification of an intended community asset application on 9 June; they have until the 30 June to respond. They have to have a reasonable period in which to respond for what is a significant matter which may affect their interests.

“The council has to consider all of representations which it receives in line with statutory criteria and processes.

“The earliest date which Eden District Council can consider the application by means of a report is 7 July 2014, which is well within the eight-week determination period.

Sharp Edge, a tricky grade-one scramble on the mountain

Sharp Edge, a tricky grade-one scramble on the mountain

“The council is aware of the bids deadline for the sale of Blencathra set by the owners’ agents.

“The sales particulars state that contracts will have to be exchanged with the successful bidder within 10 days of a successful bid. The council will seek confirmation from the solicitors and agent acting on behalf of the landowners for these timescales, particularly given that an application has been made by the Friends of Blencathra Group to list Blencathra as an asset of community value.

“No decision has yet been made by Eden District Council to list Blencathra as an asset of community value.”

The authority’s spokesperson added: “Comments about officers who are dealing with the community asset application in either a threatening manner or by way of defamation does [sic] not help deal with this matter and we would encourage anyone who decides to submit correspondence to not write in such terms.

“The officers who deal with this will do so in accordance with the statutory guidance laid down.

“Any reference to commitments and promises made for the application to be heard prior to 1 July has not been made by the officers who have to administer this process. The application needs to follow normal process in order that the council acts within the statutory guidance and protects itself and any decision from being overturned at judicial review should one ever be made.”

Hugh, the eighth Earl of Lonsdale, Viscount Lowther, Baron of Whitehaven and Lord of the Manor of Threlkeld, decided to put the Blencathra estate up for sale as the deadline approached to settle an HM Revenue and Customs a £9m tax demand.

The 1,083ha (2,676-acre) mountain estate, which includes the grade-one scramble route along Sharp Edge, is largely common land, with commoners having the right to graze 5,471 ewes, 202 shearlings, 732 hoggs and 200 lambs.

The sale will not affect access to the fell, Lord Lonsdale said

The sale will not affect access to the fell, Lord Lonsdale said

Lord Lonsdale said: “I am heartened, but not surprised, by the level of interest that has been shown in the sale.

“The property is fully protected and it is difficult to imagine how there could be any form of adverse development or change in use of the mountain which forms such an iconic part of the local environment.

“I know that the change of ownership away from my family, whilst sad, will not affect anyone’s enjoyment of the area.”

John Robson managing director of agents H&H Land and Property, said: “Offers have already been received and there is no doubt that the current level of interest would indicate that the eventual price may well exceed the guide of £1.75m plus VAT.

“There is no doubt that the prospect of owning the mountain has struck a chord with the community, high-net-worth individuals and long-term investors alike.”

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  3. Lord Lonsdale’s agents say several bids received in Blencathra sale
  4. Friends of Blencathra: ‘negotiations still open’ on mountain sale
  5. Two walkers rescued from Blencathra after getting stuck on wintry crags