Join me for a walk George, says National Trust DG Helen Ghosh

“Last week (October 24th) the Times published a front page story headlined “We’re open to fracking, says National Trust boss,” which suggested that our position on wind energy and fracking had changed. The use of selective quotes from this interview gave a false impression of where the Trust stands on these controversial issues and the headline was misleading.

“In the wake of this article George Monbiot responded with a blog which declared “your priorities seem odd” and asked if I had changed National Trust policy on fracking and wind turbines without informing members. I haven’t. Your assumption from the Times article that I am “anti-wind and pro-fracking” is mistaken.

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National Trust welcomes All-Party Commission on Physical Activity

The National Trust wholeheartedly welcomes the establishment today of an All-Party Commission on Physical Activity. We believe it would hugely benefit from examining the evidence for the role of nature and the outdoors in supporting increased levels of physical activity across the population.

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“If fracking were proposed today on our land, we would say no”

Dame Helen Ghosh, Director-General of the National Trust, has written an open letter, published in today’s The Times, reasserting the National Trust’s commitment to renewables that work with the landscape and clarifying the organisation’s position on fracking:

“Sir, I want to reassure your readers and National Trust members that our policy has not changed – if fracking were proposed today on our land, we would say no (report, Oct 24).

“Climate change is one of the main long-term threats to the special places in our care, and we are committed to developing renewables that work in the landscape and deliver clean energy. Fracking perpetuates reliance on fossil fuels. Evidence about the impacts of fracking may change over time, but until that happens we fundamentally object to fracking on our land.”

National Trust AGM outcomes 2013

National Trust members today (Saturday 26 October) voted against a members’ resolution to introduce an immediate and widespread badger vaccination programme on the charity’s land.

The resolution was suggested by a group of members to help tackle bovine TB and prevent National Trust land being involved in a cull of badgers if one is rolled out by the Government next year.

The charity’s Trustees stressed that their recommendation against the resolution did not mean that the Trust is in favour of culling badgers, and they will take on board the views expressed by many members as part of the AGM debate.

The Trust advocates an evidence based approach to tackling bovine TB which covers an integrated package of measures, including those to improve biosecurity and prevent cattle-to-cattle transmission.

“This is an emotive issue on all sides of the debate,” said Patrick Begg from the National Trust.

“We are in favour of doing what works to solve the problem that is affecting so many of our tenants and farmers across the country.

“Vaccination is our long term preference, both of badgers and cattle, but our badger vaccination trial at Killerton in Devon is only half way through.  It may prove costly and hard to administer in practice.

“We have deep concerns about how useful the Government’s pilot badger culls will now prove, and have sought assurances from them that they remain committed to upholding high standards of scientific rigour in the conduct and analysis of the pilots.  Changes to the original design has shaken our confidence.

“We will judge the outcomes of the pilots, and the Government’s subsequent approach, against the criteria for success set out by Professor Bourne in his review of the Randomised Badger Culling Trial.”

The results of the member votes were:

  • Badger vaccination: 7,808 for the resolution, 8,694 against.
  • Fairtrade tea: 7,337 for the resolution, 9,036 against.

The following members were also elected to the Trust’s Council:

  • John Godfrey, 10,708
  • Rosie Corner, 9,735
  • Irving Lord, 8,175
  • Cristina George, 9,918
  • Geoffrey Nickolds, 7,397
  • John Lyon, 7,548
  • Dylan Williams, 8,406
  • Roseanne Williams, 7,875
  • Caroline Goodall, 9,781
  • Rupert Thorp, 7,524

Notes

[1] More information on the members’ resolutions, including the full resolution and the trustee response, is available here: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/agm

National Trust “leading the way” on renewables that work in landscapes, says new D-G

The National Trust’s Director-General reiterated her personal commitment to renewable energy in her first speech at the charity’s AGM today (Saturday 26 October).

Speaking at the event, Helen Ghosh, Director General of the charity, said: “Our members and the nation more generally expect us to stand up for cultural heritage and the natural environment, of course.

helen

“We are not just a heritage attraction operator – we have a contribution to make to the debates that matter in this country.

“In the last couple of days my post bag has been dominated by the question of energy. 

“We are worried about carbon emissions and the effects of climate change on our properties and the wider world. 

“I was in Essex only last week where I saw first-hand the impact of climate change on NortheyIsland.

“That is why we support the development of renewable energy and low carbon technologies that harvest nature not mine it, and that work in the landscape – particularly in the special landscapes that we look after. 

“Our own programme of renewable energy, whether it’s hydro-electricity on the slopes of Snowdon, a marine heat pump in the Menai straits, or the many other examples across the Trust, show how we are leading the way in finding practical solutions. 

“We know it’s not something we can do alone, which is why we are working with other organisations, landowners and charities. 

“There are no easy answers to these questions but it is important that we engage in the debate and stand up for beautiful and historic places.”

Earlier this year the Trust launched a £3.5 million renewable energy pilot that could lead to the charity investing ten times that amount in renewable technology at 43 of its properties.

The Trust has committed to reducing its energy use by 20 per cent and generating 50 per cent of its energy from renewable energy sources by 2020.

This will enable the Trust to reduce its energy costs by more than £4 million per annum, releasing more money for the charity’s conservation work.

Thousands of orchids grow alongside PV panels at Plas Newydd in Wales

Thousands of orchids grow alongside PV panels at Plas Newydd in Wales

Speaking at the launch of the pilot, Patrick Begg, Rural Enterprises Director at the National Trust, said: “Through our work we show that renewable technologies can be made to work in some of the country’s most sensitive landscapes and historic environments.

“Like householders everywhere we are facing rising energy bills. We spend more than £6 million each year heating and powering the places in our care.

“By investing in renewable energy production we can reduce our energy bills and invest more in vital conservation work around the country. It will put renewable energy at the heart of conservation.”

The Trust’s five pilot projects are:

  • Plas Newydd – 300kW marine source heat pump, providing 100 per cent of the property’s heat requirements
  • CroftCastle – 150kW biomass boiler, supplying 74 per cent of property’s heating needs
  • Ickworth – 300kW biomass boiler, supplying 100 per cent of estate’s heating needs
  • Craflwyn – more than 100kW hydro-generation, which will be sold back to the grid
  • Stickle Ghyll – 90kW hydro-electric project providing 30 per cent of property’s energy needs

Over the last decade around 250 schemes have been installed in Trust properties including a wide range of technologies: wood (biomass), solar electricity and hot water, small-scale wind, hydro-electric, and heat pumps.

Next month the Trust is launching, with partners, the Fit for the Future Network, including some of the country’s biggest landowners and charities that will share best practice in energy saving and renewable energy generation.

National Trust “leading the way” on renewables that work in landscapes, says new D-G

Originally posted on National Trust Places:

The National Trust’s Director-General reiterated her personal commitment to renewable energy in her first speech at the charity’s AGM today (Saturday 26 October).

Speaking at the event, Helen Ghosh, Director General of the charity, said: “Our members and the nation more generally expect us to stand up for cultural heritage and the natural environment, of course.

Helen Ghosh, Director General of the National Trust

Helen Ghosh, Director General of the National Trust

“We are not just a heritage attraction operator – we have a contribution to make to the debates that matter in this country.

In the last couple of days my post bag has been dominated by the question of energy. 

“We are worried about carbon emissions and the effects of climate change on our properties and the wider world. 

“I was in Essex only last week where I saw first-hand the impact of climate change on NortheyIsland.

“That is why we support the development of renewable…

View original 503 more words

Somerset site gives glimmer of hope for ash dieback disease

Trees in a Somerset plantation have survived with ash dieback (Chalara fraxinea) for far longer than previously thought possible, suggesting there may be potential to slow the spread of the disease in the British countryside after all.

Only ten per cent of the six thousand ash trees at the Holnicote plantation are showing any signs of the disease, despite having been infected for five years longer than any other tree in the UK so far.

The disease is present in one other small plantation nearby but doesn’t appear to have spread any further – which is at odds with Government predictions which suggests it should have spread further and infected more trees in this time.

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It’s time to re-wild our kids with more wild time

The UK’s biggest ever campaign to reconnect children with nature and outdoor play is being launched today by the newly formed Wild Network, as it encourages the nation’s parents to swap some of their kids’ screen time for wild time.

Swapping thirty minutes of screen time for an extra half an hour of wild time every day would decrease children’s time in front of screens by ten per cent. This could help increase levels of physical activity, alertness and ultimately improve their well-being.

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Comment on today’s Times article on fracking

Commenting on today’s Times article on fracking, a National Trust spokesman said:

“Shale gas is a fossil fuel which may prove a fool’s gold and distract attention from a shift to renewables.

“The environmental and visual impacts are also unproven, and this is what concerns many people. We want to see more evidence on what this impact will be.

“Our position is a presumption against fracking on our land. “It doesn’t mean that in time that won’t change – if the environmental and visual impacts are negligible and it is part of a strategy to move to a low carbon economy.”

Our full position statement on fracking can be found here.

English farmers visiting Westminster call for greater share of farming budget to go to the environment

Farmers from across England will be taking a strong environmental message to Westminster later today [Wednesday 23 October, 2013], when they meet MPs to highlight the need for a greater share of funding to help threatened species, landscapes and heritage features.

Within weeks Owen Paterson MP – the Environment Secretary – will have to finalise his budget and priorities for the future of the countryside. A key decision the Secretary of State has to make is how much funding to dedicate to so-called agri-environment schemes, which fund farmers to manage their farms in wildlife-friendly and environmentally-friendly ways. With a finite amount of money available under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), he has the power to transfer up to 15 per cent of direct subsidies to these and other rural development schemes, and farmers attending today’s event are calling for the maximum transfer.

With many species continuing to decline this funding is needed more than ever. Figures released last week by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) revealed that the number of birds reliant on farmland have halved in number since 1970. Additionally, the State of Nature report launched by Sir David Attenborough, in May, shows that 60 per cent of 1064 species monitored on farmland have declined, and a third of the total, including the small skipper butterfly, have declined strongly.

As well as addressing wildlife declines, agri-environment schemes can also help promote more sustainable farming and deliver wider public benefits, such as tourism and jobs. The National Trust, the RSPB, the Wildlife Trusts and Conservation Grade believe these schemes are vital for competitiveness and long-term viability of the sector, as well as the encouraging the growth and vitality of rural communities.

Richard Morris Farm Manager at the National Trust’s Wimpole Estate in Cambridgeshire said: “Farmers have to ensure a return from their land so that their businesses remain viable. With no other support this requires field corner-to-corner production. A successful alternative that has delivered huge benefits to nature are agri-environment schemes.  If farmers sign up to these, they receive income support for the land they take out of production to replant hedges, establish margins, field corners and habitats which are rich and varied. 

“Without continued support for the cost of management and forgoing income from these areas they are likely to return to production with the resulting degradation of nature’s resource. I believe the public would want to see more investment in this ecological friendly and more sustainable type of production. We need to ensure funds to deliver these schemes that protect biodiversity, habitat and healthy living landscapes both for today, and for future generations.”

Sheep grazing ont he Wimpole Estate in Cambridgeshire.

Sheep grazing ont he Wimpole Estate in Cambridgeshire.

The partnership of organisations helping with today’s event know from experience it is possible to reverse the declines of some of our most threatened wildlife, and to date a broad coalition of farmers, NGOs, scientists and Government have played a key role in some important conservation success stories. But the organisations believe if these successes are to be repeated in the future, continued support for environmental schemes is essential.

Patrick Begg, Rural Enterprise Director at the National Trust, remarked:  “Farming needs to be more in-tune with the natural characteristics of the land and rural economies in which it operates, recognising both its dependence on environmental resilience and sustainable land management, as well as the multiplier effect it can have both culturally and economically. 

“We cannot emphasise strongly enough the importance of maximising modulation and securing a high agri-environment spend in mitigating the impact of EU cuts and securing a positive outcome for the countryside and taxpayers.  Only then can we rise to the challenge of producing enough food, safeguarding our precious natural resources, and ensuring an economic future for farming and their communities.

“Our Government needs to show real leadership in Europe and send a clear signal that environmental sustainability has to be put at the heart of farming in the UK.”

My Farm Project - Home Farm, Wimpole Estate (21st April 2011)

Martin Harper is the RSPB’s conservation director. He said: “Three-quarters of England is farmed, and that means farmers have a huge responsibility to look after a great proportion of our wildlife, landscapes and cultural heritage.

“Over the last two decades, an increasing number of farmers have embraced the challenge and taken the step to enter agri-environment schemes, working hard to get results on the ground. I’m delighted we are working alongside farmers today to try and secure a better deal for these schemes in the future.

“Together we hope that Owen Paterson MP will keep his pledge to help wildlife and the wider environment by shifting farming budgets in favour of those farmers seeking to farm in wildlife-friendly ways.”

The Wildlife Trusts Head of Living Landscape, Paul Wilkinson commented:  “Wildlife Trusts across the country work with farmers delivering the current agri-environment schemes.

“We know how important it is for those famers who make a long-term commitment to delivering effective schemes to receive appropriate financial support. In many parts of the country, agri-environment schemes play a crucial role in shaping the landscapes that underpin rural economies and communities.

“We believe that the public appreciate that and we hope that the Government will therefore put the public funding in place to support those farmers who do the most for the environment.”

Today’s lobby of Parliament, includes 28 farmers, from various parts of England, working alongside the RSPB, The Wildlife Trusts, the National Trust and Conservation Grade.