Mittal bid to buy UK Lake District hill meets local opposition

Indian steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal, based in the UK, has bid for an iconic mountain range in the famous 'Lake District' of northwest England, sparking protests from local people who believe the move could make the area a playground for the super-rich.

The 2,850ft-high Blencathra mountain, which towers above the Northern Fells in the picturesque region of Cumbria, was put on the market by Earl of Lonsdale Hugh Lowther in May, with an asking price of £1.75 million.

Funds from the sale of the 2,676-acre plot will go towards paying off the reported £9-million tax he owes from his father's inheritance, who died eight years ago.

Nicknamed the Saddleback due to its distinctive, sweeping ridge, the mountain has long been famous, having been celebrated by poets like Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth.

Concerned that the announcement of the sale would see the mountain become a playground for the super-rich, 'the Friends of Blencathra' local residents group put in a bid for the mountain, and applied to Eden District Council to make the area a community asset to secure it from private hands, the Independent  reported.

But on Friday, John Robson, director of selling agents H&H Land and Property, confirmed the Friends of Blencathra were unsuccessful.

He explained in a statement that the Lonsdales had accepted an offer from an unnamed party, which exceeded the guide price for the mountain.

It has now emerged the unnamed party is the London-based Mittal, CEO of world's largest steel-maker ArcelorMittal and one of the richest Indians.

This has resulted in the Friends of Blencathra lodging a protest to prevent the historic peak from falling into the hands of a foreign landowner.

The agent's statement read: "Prior to reaching this decision we had discussions earlier on Sunday with representatives from The Friends of Blencathra. We have taken into account both their offer and the fact that there is a significant shortfall between this and the successful offer."

"The reason behind the sale of Blencathra is to realise capital for inheritance tax following the death of the 7th Earl of Lonsdale in 2006. The Estate's solicitor has been instructed to proceed with the sale and we expect the matter to be completed reasonably quickly," the statement said.