The Earl of Lonsdale has invited sealed bids for the mountain Blencathra in order to pay an inheritance tax bill. Cumbria Trust has noted with concern the difficulties faced by The Friends of Blencathra in applying to register the mountain as an asset of community value under the relatively new Localism Act 2011. This would in theory enable The Friends of Blencathra to invoke a moratorium on the sale of the mountain for up to 6 months, while they seek to raise funds for a community buy-out at the market price. Cumbria Trust shares the public concerns about the future of this natural treasure (consider the predicament of Underscar Manor with lack of transparent owner against which to enforce planning breaches). However, the (entirely proper) decision-making protocols of Eden District Council mean that the Friends’ application will not be heard until five days after the sealed bids close on 2nd July.
Even if the Friends’ application is timed out, the sheer level of community, national and international support shown for their campaign demonstrates the huge importance of the Cumbrian and Lake District landscape to the public, and just how much people want to protect this truly special area for future generations. Cumbria Trust supports the efforts of The Friends of Blencathra in seeking to resolve the issue whether through negotiations, community bid or gift to the nation in lieu of tax. We are delighted to see Sir Chris Bonington throwing his weight behind the campaign. We would encourage Cumbria Trust members and followers to do likewise.
While the application to register Blencathra as a community asset has run into timing problems, an alternative may be that the government accepts Blencathra as an object of national heritage and a gift to the nation in lieu of inheritance tax, and transfers the ownership to an organisation such as The National Trust, who could hold it inalienably for the benefit of the public. This is more usually invoked for works of art which are then allocated to national galleries and museums. Cumbria Trust would welcome such an approach – the iconic skyline of Saddleback being as much a national treasure as a Turner landscape painting. To their credit, The National Trust have recently shown that they can be trusted to protect the nation’s greatest landscapes in ruling out the burial of nuclear waste on their land in Ennerdale and in the National Park.
As a non-profit organisation, Cumbria Trust is eligible to use The Localism Act 2011 to nominate areas at risk of becoming a site for burial of nuclear waste as assets of community value, so that local people have the opportunity to have their voices heard. Working with parish and town councils, Cumbria Trust will nominate areas to be added to the register of community assets. This should allow us to delay the site selection process while seeking a Judicial Review.
Areas which were identified by the MRWS geologist as being potential nuclear waste disposal sites should be a priority. These were the Solway Plain adjacent to Silloth, the Ennerdale Valley and area to the south of Ennerdale Water, and from Eskdale south to Corney Fell. All of these areas benefit from a high level of protection due to their special qualities. To date, DECC has chosen to ignore this protection and appears to be designing a White Paper, due for release in the autumn, which masquerades as a national process but which is clearly aimed at a return to Cumbria.