(Don't) Buy Blencathra

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By TallPaul on 06/05/14 at 10:10am

You've probably seen in the press by now that the current owner of Blencathra, Lord Lonsdale, has put it up for sale with an asking price in the order of £1.75M (he's asking for sealed bids by 2nd July). According to this article on the BBC News web site he's selling to help pay a £9M inheritance tax bill.

Over on Twitter I've seen several new accounts pop up as a result like @BuyBlencathra "Public collective to purchase Blencathra" and @helpblencathra "Help us save Blencathra and keep it in the community". The former for example proposes to purchase Blencathra and donate it in perpetuity to the nation (by which they mean the National Trust).

What is interesting however is that from what I hear on the grapevine the National Trust themselves are saying they're not going to try to buy it. And I can understand why. As the hill farmer who posts on Twitter as @herdyshepherd1 tweeted:

"does it matter who owns it?" No, not remotely. It is protected... access safe, commoners rights safe... Owner can do nothing!

And that, fundamentally, is the point. This isn't the bad old days when owners could deny access to the fells. I still like to say I own a small chunk of Snowdon which I helped the NT buy back in the days before the Right to Roam legislation came into being. At the time it was the biggest amount of money I'd ever given to a charity in one hit. But today owning access land is just a liability, especially in a national park as there really is very little you can do with it to get any income from it given the planning restrictions. By buying the land you're not giving the public anything they didn't have already.

@herdyshepherd1 summed it up very nicely when he tweeted:

People are missing the point on sale of Blencathra... We won a very long time ago... The owner owns only in name! Don't... @BuyBlencathra

I'm with him. I think there's an element of running around like the sky is falling going on here. This bloke is simply trying to pay off his inheritance tax bill (£9M I hope you noted) hoping selling off one asset which I suspect is becoming a liability, if it isn't already, to someone who doesn't understand what they're buying into. I think the NT understand that, as does @herdyshepherd1, but it looks like some other people simply don't get it. Yet.

By digby on 02/07/14 at 1:27pm

I wouldn't underestimate the resourcefulness of the rich and powerful in finding ways of making things difficult if they really have a mind to! cf the one or two Scottish estates with access problems.

By beth on 02/07/14 at 4:22pm

That is definitely a problem. Having the law on one's side is all very well but enforcing it quite another. Still think its perverse for folk who haven't got shed-loads of assets paying the tax bill of someone who's just inherited more than most of them will see in their lifetime.

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