Na­tional Trust de­fends Cum­brian pur­chase

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country -

HE Na­tional Trust (NT) has been crit­i­cised for out­bid­ding lo­cals in the pur­chase of land and for not buy­ing the farm­house and build­ings that would keep the prop­erty as an en­tire farm. It bid £950,000 for 303 acres of land at Thor­neyth­waite Farm in Bor­row­dale, Cum­bria —£200,000 over the ask­ing price —but didn’t at­tempt to buy the rest of the farm, which was sold in a sep­a­rate lot (Agromenes, page 61).

James Re­banks, au­thor of A Shep­herd’s Life: A Tale of the Lake Dis­trict, ac­cuses the Trust of in­ten­tion­ally break­ing up a his­toric farm by pric­ing out buy­ers who were pre-

Tpared to buy the en­tire hold­ing and farm it in the tra­di­tional way. ‘The Na­tional Trust was founded to pro­tect this pas­toral, cul­tural land­scape, but it has sadly lost its way,’ says Mr Re­banks, who is call­ing on the Char­ity Com­mis­sion to in­ves­ti­gate this use of the Trust’s money.

In a let­ter to The Times, broad­caster Lord Bragg de­scribes the char­ity as ‘bul­ly­ing’ and says they are ‘about to de­stroy what cen­turies of work­ing men and women have cre­ated’.

An NT spokesman ex­plains that the char­ity, whose cur­rent fo­cus is on land and the en­vi­ron­ment, rather than build­ings, could not af­ford the en­tire farm, which had been es­ti­mated at £1.55 mil­lion-plus, so pri­ori­tised buy­ing the land. ‘It’s far from clear if there were any prospec­tive buy­ers in­ter­ested in buy­ing both lots or what any new pri­vate owner would have done with the land and farm­house if they had been suc­cess­ful. With the Trust, there is cer­tainty. The land will be man­aged us­ing lo­cal skills, it will con­tinue to be farmed, and the beauty of the area will be cared for for­ever.’

The Trust is now con­sid­er­ing its op­tions and re­ports con­sid­er­able lo­cal in­ter­est. Char­lotte Cooper

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