Controversial plans to sell off various small parcels of land owned by the Lake District National Park have received a lot of attention in recent weeks. Opposition has coalesced around the sale of Stickle Tarn in the Langdale Pikes, perhaps the most symbolically 'Lakeland' of the properties. A conservation charity has now expressed an interest in taking over the site.
On Monday the Lake District National Park Authority said that though new owners had been identified for a couple of the properties, the future of five was still unclear - including Stickle Tarn.
'We have received a number of tender bids [for Stickle Tarn] and have given these careful consideration' said the Park Authority.
'However, at this stage we do not believe we have found a bidder who fully meets both our requirements and some of the concerns expressed by the local community and various interested parties.'
'We have listened to the community and taken on board their feedback. We remain committed to exploring alternative responsible ownership for Stickle Tarn and will work with the community and interested groups in the coming weeks.'
Following the well aired public concerns about the land sale, in particular Stickle Tarn, landscape charity Friends of the Lake District yesterday revealed that they have submitted an expression of interest to purchase the tarn, so that it could, they say, be 'owned by a responsible organisation sympathetic to National Park purposes'.
'Friends of the Lake District, along with others, has expressed grave concerns about the lack of transparency and conditions attached to the sales of National Park land which could put their sympathetic future management under threat' they go on.
The Lake District National Park Authority has clarified that Friends of the Lake District is one of the number of ‘interested groups’ with whom they will be ‘exploring alternative responsible ownership' for Stickle Tarn.
'We welcome the prospect of discussion with the National Park Authority, the local community and other interested groups to discuss the future of this iconic tarn for future generations' said the Friends.
'We are very pleased at the prospect of these discussions and look forward to playing a key role in ensuring that Stickle Tarn remains protected.'
But perhaps hedging their bets a little, they conclude: '[h]owever, being a responsible charity we will seek expert advice as to our potential liabilities before making any final commitment.'
Meanwhile the National Park have been at pains to reassure sceptics that both public access and conservation will continue unaffected, whoever owns the land:
'In progressing the tender process we made sure environmental protection and rights of way would be protected and the public’s enjoyment of the land would be unaffected in line with the Vision for the National Park. This forms a key part of our strategy to ensure we hold on to the right pieces of land for the right reasons and to release funds for reinvestment and other improvements in the park. 96 per cent of the park is in alternative ownership, demonstrating we do not need to own the land ourselves to actively conserve and maintain it' they said.