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Friends of Blencathra

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Frequently asked Questions

Q1. Lord Lonsdale has taken it off the market. Why would FoB still want to buy it?

FoB - It was taken off the Market some time ago and before the issues regarding Inheritance Tax were reportedly resolved, so that the Trustees of the Lonsdale Estate could reach an agreement. Despite the recent negative Press reports, the Lonsdale Estates have never actually stated that it is not for sale. Additionally, Mr Robson told the Financial Times: “We are not actively marketing it. If the right offer was made we would consider it. They would have to make a really good offer.” We presume that this statement was intended to apply to the bid from FoB but this statement could also apply to anyone else.
We don't see that anything has really changed since the original sale was announced, as confirmed by the statements reported in the Press, and so the objective of FoB remains the same. We still believe that we can make an offer that would be acceptable to Lonsdale Estates.

It was also quoted in the Press that:-

"The eighth Earl, whose family have owned Blencathra for more than 400 years, said when the mountain went on the market that it would be a “great loss” but he accepted it was a non-core asset."


Q2. FoB has only raised about £250,000 and so the bid must have failed. Why aren't donations being returned?

FoB - Despite Press reports to the contrary the bid has not failed. The figure quoted in the accounts has now increased but only represents the cash held by the Charity from donations and is far short of the potential asking price. The Mountain was originally put on the market with a guide price of £1.75M. Firm pledges and other offers of support are obviously not included in the assets of the Charity and boost the potential assets of the Charity substantially. The length of time the process is taking has meant that other funding offers have been withdrawn but we have been invited to make new applications for these funds. The real importance of the total assets is that it allows us to re-apply for these funds and acquire further corporate funding, once an intention to sell is confirmed, and a final sales price agreed.

Q3. Who owns the Mountain?

FoB - The Estate’s property is currently held by the Executors of his father, the late Seventh Earl of Lonsdale who have been in negotiations with FoB. They are named on the Title Deeds. This may change following the reported settlement of the Estates outstanding tax issues.

Q4. Why is it taking so long?

FoB - A simple Question that requires a far more complex response. This is partly due to the history of the land and it's many uses giving rise to special requirements within any legal contract. There are also many parties involved so it is necessarily much more complex than most sales/purchases. It would be improper to comment on behalf of Lonsdale Estates but the facts remain that the Seventh Earl of Lonsdale died in 2006 and the negotiations were still being led by his Executors earlier this year.

Q5. What will FoB do with Blencathra if they manage to buy it?

FoB - The Interim Steering Group was set up to buy the Mountain and then to establish a Team to manage the asset.
As stated at the first public meeting:-

"Currently the Lake District National Park looks after the mountain and whilst they do a good job they are strapped for cash. This would therefore be a long term commitment and not just a case of buying the mountain and that’s that. The Friends of Blencathra group would be involved in seeking the best way of maintaining the mountain going forward."

Q6. Will donations be returned if the bid fails?

FoB - This is the text as sent to the Charities Commission when they asked for clarification from the Legal team before the Charity was first established:-

"4 Failure to acquire the mountain: fundraising has been conducted on very clear terms: in the event that the mountain cannot be acquired, all funds in excess of £10 donations will be returned to the donor. A database has been compiled with all relevant details to facilitate this taking place. Second, in the case of donations of less than £10, the trustees have publicised the fact that these donations are too small to return. It has been made clear that those sums will be donated to a range of other charities. The selection will be within the discretion of the trustee directors but they have indicated that they are more than prepared to consider suggestions from the public who have made donations."

The Charity Trustees have a legal responsibility to honour this along with the stated 'Objects' of the Memorandum of Association (MoA). The Board of FoB Ltd are still firmly of the opinion that a deal can be agreed. The Financial Times published on the 20th May 2016 contains a statement from the managing agents for the Lonsdale Estate confirming that they would still consider an offer.

Q7 - The original intention to buy the Mountain was fundamentally to protect Blencathra from falling into the wrong hands. If it is no longer for sale, then there is no need for us to buy it ?"

FoB - We reiterate that just because Lonsdale Estates are not actively marketing it we believe that the Mountain is still for sale. Although comments were initially made about various private buyers (mostly Press fabrications) this was not the reason FoB became involved.
In response to the comment "People gave money in order to prevent the mountain being bought by someone who might restrict access" Debbie replied "that wasn't quite the case.. although I know that was the view of some. We kept saying that it wasn't to prevent a foreign buyer and that because of the rights of way act we always would have access.. This was about a rare (once in 400 years) opportunity to bring the mountain into public ownership and to be able to take responsibility for something we all value."
I have included the following which reflects what was stated from the outset:-

The registration of FoB Ltd as a Charity included the statements:-

4.1 The charity’s objects ‘(Objects’) are specifically restricted to the following: To promote for the benefit of the public the conservation and protection of the natural environment in particular the Cumbrian mountain, Blencathra.
4.2 To promote for the benefit of the public the provision of facilities, in particular on the Cumbrian mountain, Blencathra, for recreation or other leisure time occupation of individuals who have need of such facilities by reason of their youth, age, infirmity or disablement, financial hardship or social and economic circumstances or for the public at large in the interests of social welfare and with the object of improving conditions of life. "
and......

" Purpose (as stated at the first Public Meeting 11th May 2014)
Debbie confirmed that the aim of the group is to purchase the mountain and put it back into community ownership, NOT to carve it into pieces and own a little bit each.
Currently the Lake District National Park looks after the mountain and whilst they do a good job they are strapped for cash. This would therefore be a long term commitment and not just a case of buying the mountain and that’s that. The friends of Blencathra group would be involved in seeking the best way of maintaining the mountain going forward.
Debbie asked people to confirm, via raising their hands, if they were here because they wanted to see this happen and supported her in continuing to take this idea forward. It was unanimous decision of everyone and that is why everyone had attended."



Finally:-
A timely reminder of the remarks from Friends of Blencathra Honorary President (Minutes of public meeting held at Rheged, Penrith on Saturday 31st May 2014)

"Sir Chris Bonington commented that he had no hesitation to support the cause. While all mountains are special, Blencathra is often seen as the “Gateway to the Lake District”...... and "Sharing ownership for those that love the mountain is much more than about the right to roam. It means conservation, enhancing the landscape and involves working with farmers who use the land’s grazing rights."