Charity established to buy a mountain admits defeat

Friends of Blencathra, which says it raised more than £250,000, is being advised by the Charity Commission on the future of its funds


A charity set up to buy a mountain in the Lake District is being advised by the Charity Commission on the future of its funds after it accepted it had failed to agree a sale with the mountain’s owners.

Friends of Blencathra was established after the mountain, called Blencathra, was put up for sale in 2014 for £1.75m by its owner, the Earl of Lonsdale, to help pay an inheritance tax bill after the previous earl’s death.

According to the charity, it received donations in excess of £250,000 to buy the mountain in order to ensure it would be kept open to the public.

But this fell well short of the amount needed to buy the mountain, and the mountain was withdrawn from sale earlier this year after failing to attract a buyer.

Last month the charity was given a 21-day deadline to make a suitable offer for Blencathra. The deadline passed at 5pm on Monday without a sale being agreed.

The charity’s trustees said they would decide at their next meeting how to deal with the donations received. They are waiting for further communication from the Charity Commission before agreeing a date for that meeting.

A spokeswoman for the Charity Commission said: "The commission has been notified by the Friends of Blencathra that the charity now sees no prospects of a successful purchase of Blencathra by the charity. The commission is engaged with the trustees of the charity to advise on the legal framework within which the funds raised to date should be dealt with."

A Facebook group called Friends of Blencathra Please Say No has campaigned for the return of the donations. In a recent post, the group said it had written to the Charity Commission about the situation.

In a statement, the trustees of Friends of Blencathra said the charity had accepted defeat in its attempt to buy the mountain.

"Last month we received an ultimatum to make a final offer for Blencathra within 21 days from the solicitors acting for Lonsdale Settled Estates," the statement said.

"It was made clear that the offer would have to be substantially above the valuations we have received for the mountain to be acceptable and that the other proposals we had offered would not be considered. The property was vested in the name of the Eighth Earl of Lonsdale last week.

"The trustees of Friends of Blencathra have declined to make an offer on the terms indicated and, with the change of ownership, now see no prospects of a successful purchase by the charity.

"The trustees will meet shortly to discuss the implications of that decision and prepare a public consultation on the future of the charity."

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