The Lake District National Park Authority has defended its decision flog several prized pieces of land – and a clause entitling it to 50 per cent of the profit of any future sale.

Land at Blue Hill and Red Bank Woods, in Ambleside and at Baneriggs Wood, Penny Rock Wood, White Moss and Rydal Woods, in Grasmere have been put up for sale by the authority (LDNPA) via agents Savills.

A number of residents in Grasmere have raised concern over a clause in the sale agreement which entitles the LDNPA to half of any future profits – and fears of a conflict of interest given the authority stands to benefit financially from the grant of planning permission.

While Councillor Will Clark, who represents the area on Cumbria County Council, recognised that the LDPNA was within its rights to sell the land, he admitted to being confused by the profit-sharing clause.

“Whilst I understand financial prudence. the clause only becomes relevant if there were significant development potential for the land to be sold,” he said.

“There is not. These sites ought to be among the most highly protected sites of the National Park.

“A much more appropriate clause would be one simply prohibiting any kind of urban or commercial activity on the land.”

It is understood that Lowther Estates are interested in purchasing the land.

A spokesperson for the LDNPA defended the situation, arguing that the body had a duty to the taxpayer to obtain best value for their land.

They also stressed that safeguards were in place to protect the land in the future.

“The woodlands are protected by statutory designations to preserve public access and their future enjoyment and future development would be subject to the usual planning process,” they added.

The authority become more commercially minded in recent years to help balance the books in the light of its commitment to protect the National Park against depleted national funding.