Cumbria

Melvyn Bragg attacks National Trust 'bullies' in farm row

Thorneythwaite Farm Image copyright PFK Platinum
Image caption Thorneythwaite Farm was sold in separate lots for the building and the land

Melvyn Bragg has accused the National Trust of "bullying" after it bought a tranche of land in the Lake District - but not the farm that sits on it.

The trust angered farmers when it paid £200,000 above guide price for the land at Thorneythwaite Farm in Borrowdale.

The broadcaster said the higher bid made it impossible for local farmers "critical to the preservation" of the Lake District "to get a look in".

The National Trust said it was the best way to secure the landscape's future.

Thorneythwaite Farm's private owner put it up for auction in two separate lots, with a guide price £750,000 for the land and £800,000 for the farm and buildings.

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The trust's offer of £950,000 for the land sparked criticism from those who wanted it to remain as a working farm.

The Herdwick Sheep Breeders Association said on Twitter: "Another farm lost. Hopes that the farm could be taken on by a new young fell farmer have been dashed."

Image caption Melvyn Bragg wrote an angry letter to the Times denouncing the National Trust's actions

In a letter to the Times, Lord Bragg said: "The National Trust.... behaved very badly. It put in a bid which was way above that which was reasonable for the land, thus making it impossible for local farmers to get a look in.

"It was a nasty piece of work. Had a billionaire bullied his way into this disgraceful purchase there would have been a deserved outcry."

The National Trust said it prioritised the purchase of the land as it did not have the funds to buy both - although it was aware that was the preferred local option.

It said it offered the higher price to avoid the risk of "gazumping" - a risk it would have faced if the auctioneer decided to package the two together for a price the trust could not afford.