LYNX will not be roaming parts of Kielder Forest.

Defra Secretary, Michael Gove, ended nearly four years of speculation that six of the wildcats would be released into Kielder on a five-year trial basis.

The Secretary of State laid out his refusal in a letter to the Lynx UK's chief scientific adviser, Paul O'Donoghue, who had submitted an application in summer 2017 to reintroduce four female and two male Eurasian lynx to Kielder.

He said that a review by Natural England concluded the application did not meet the necessary standards.

"Natural England found that the proposal lacked the necessary depth and rigour to provide confidence it would succeed," said Mr Gove.

He added: As far as could be seen, major landowners and managers, including Forestry Commission England, were either engaged insufficiently or not at all. As key enablers to the project, this

is concerning as their support would have provided reassurance about its potential success.

"NE found that the project lacked organisational resilience and did not sufficiently evidence a securely held budget. In this regard it was not clear how this proposal would be funded, including how an exit strategy would be executed in an appropriate manner. NE also had concerns about the reliance on volunteers and insufficient project team contingency, as well as the lack of formal partnerships or collaborations with other relevant organisations that would normally be expected."

The move was met with opposition from residents, farmers and landowners in the Kielder area, as well as campaigning group the National Sheep Association.

They said they were 'delighted' that the application had been rejected, claiming it was the right decision on ecological, social and agricultural grounds.

"The victory is not just for farmers, but for the ecology of the area, the rural community and the farming economy,~" said NSA chief executive, Phil Stocker.

“NSA first raised its concerns with Natural England in March 2015, so nearly four years ago when the release was first suggested and has been leading the charge ever since. Today’s announcement shows the effectiveness of our working with local farmers and community groups that share our concerns. The community in Kielder has really come together and with the support of NSA has hosted meetings and discussions to raise their concerns. The threat of the lynx against sheep was very real and we could not be happier that this isn’t a risk our members will have to face," added Mr Stocker.

Advocates of the Lynx UK project said the reintroduction of just such an apex predator would help to control the UK's over-population of deer, reducing damage to forests and improving habitat for smaller animals in the process.

The trust also claims the boost it would have given to Kielder's tourism industry would have run into "tens of millions of pounds for the local rural economy, based on similar reintroduction projects in Europe".

Lynx in their natural state died out in Britain more than a thousand years ago.