A bid to release six Eurasian lynx into the Kielder Forest was rejected in 2018 – but the Lynx Trust made it clear they remained committed in realising their proposal.

The then Environment Secretary Michael Gove said he had accepted Natural England’s advice not to grant a licence for the scheme.

Mr Gove said the Government remained committed to the reintroduction of once-native species when there are “comprehensive proposals” and clear environmental, social and economic benefits.

But Natural England had expressed concerns about the feasibility of the project, including how it would be funded and a reliance on volunteers, he said.

It was claimed the application did not include an ecological assessment providing assurances the area was suitable for a reintroduction and did not demonstrate sufficient engagement with landowners or local support.

In his letter, Mr Gove said: “Kielder Forest is an area where the Forest Commission has been taking action to manage and restore important habitats and ecosystem functions to enhance biodiversity.”

He said he hoped the trust could support the need to undertake the reintroduction of species in a “considered manner”, which could positively contribute to the natural system of the area and ensure maximum benefits to the local environment and people using it.

Dr Paul O’Donoghue, chief scientific advisor for the Lynx UK Trust, wrote: “I, and all of the team at the trust, remain as committed and determined as ever to see lynx given a chance to return, and a fair treatment in consideration of the evidenced benefits they will bring.”