The Friends' Blencathra bid has formally failed. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

The Friends' Blencathra bid has formally failed. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

People who donated money to a charity set up in an aborted attempt to buy a Lake District mountain can reclaim their cash.

But the Friends of Blencathra said a deduction of £6 will be made from all refunds to cover their costs.

The organisation was originally established to buy Blencathra, also known as Saddleback to local residents, when it was put up for sale to raise funds to pay an inheritance tax bill for its owner the Earl of Lonsdale.

The Friends have formally declared their bid failed and say donations will be returned to members of the public who sent them. A sum equal to about 5 per cent of the funds received is being deducted to cover the costs of returning these, plus other running costs the Friends of Blencathra face this year.

Donors can also ‘disclaim’ their funds and these will then be given to a Cumbrian charity classified for recreational and landscape conservation, yet to be decided by the Friends’ trustees.

Applications for refunds have to be sent to the Friends’ chairman Dave Wheeler.

Mr Wheeler said: “It will be important that claims made for donations paid by cheque or bank transfer include the cheque number or transaction reference in order to ensure that we can identify the donation.

Donations by PayPal are not an issue. We are required to fully identify donations being claimed and our records do not always include the name of the person(s) making the donation for various reasons.

“It has always been the intention of the charity to return donations in the event of the failure to purchase the mountain but we have not been in a position to confirm this until the legal status of the held funds was established and the process agreed with the Charity Commission.”

In their formal notice of the failed bid, the Friends said: “The trustees, after due consideration, decided that the indicated price expectations [of the mountain’s vendors] were considerably higher than the valuations we had received through our legal team, and indeed were also well above the price expectation that had recently been indicated to our legal team.

“Considering the above information, the trustees decided in September 2016 that the potential for purchasing Saddleback was highly unlikely in the foreseeable future and declined to offer a bid.

“It was always the intention of the charity to return donations once it became clear that the objective of buying the mountain was no longer possible.

“At the start of the campaign it was necessary to submit the original application for charitable status in a very short timeframe in order to meet the initial 10-week deadline for the submission of a sealed bid.

“Many donations were accepted in the first few weeks of the campaign but unfortunately the trustees had to change the objects of the charity as the statements contained in the original documents submitted were not accepted.

“The [memorandum of association] was revised and a written resolution agreed and then accepted on 17 June 2014. A large proportion of the donations were received prior to this date. This has caused some considerable debate with regard to the legal status of the funds accepted before and after that date.

“The final resolution, finally agreed with the Charity Commission, is that all identifiable donations, regardless of the amount that were received, will be refunded to the donor with a deduction of £6 to cover the costs incurred by the charity.

“Considering the large public interest and the rather concerted campaign by a few individuals who appeared to oppose continuing the campaign into 2016, it was deemed necessary to spend time and effort to ensure that the due legal process was properly followed.

“This situation turned out to be more complicated than was envisaged and the charity have received conflicting legal opinion which is why it has taken a considerable time to resolve.”

The fell, in the northern Lake District, was described by author Alfred Wainwright as ‘the mountaineers’ mountain’. It was the subject of film-maker Terry Abraham’s acclaimed Life of a Mountain: Blencathra.

The land remains in the ownership of a Lonsdale family trust.

The Friends of Blencathra said all travel and accommodation costs incurred have been paid by individual trustees at their own expense. The costs of the organisation’s new website, email and some recent administration support have been donated by supporters, the charity said.

It added the estimated costs of returning refunds and operating the charity this year are £3,300. This includes mailing costs and advertising for announcement of ‘failed bid’ and return of donations.

Claims for refunds can be emailed to Mr Wheeler within a three-month deadline.

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