Stonehenge transformed by new visitor centre

The long-awaited Stonehenge exhibition and visitor centre will open on 18 December.

Stonehenge VC_0043

The new Stonehenge exhibition and visitor centre, a sensitively designed modern building, is located 1.5 miles away from Stonehenge and designed by leading practice Denton Corker Marshall.

For the first time, visitors will have a proper introduction to one of the world’s most important prehistoric monuments – set within the landscape looked after by the National Trust.

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Comment on today’s Sunday Times article

Commenting on an article in the Sunday Times today, a National Trust spokesman said:

“We’re extremely disappointed with the piece which is littered with inaccuracies and biased reporting.

“The reason that we rent properties is to raise vital funds, which we pump back into our core charitable purpose: to look after the special places enjoyed by tens of millions of people every year.

“We always aim to be professional and fair in the way we work with our 8,000 residential, agricultural and commercial tenants – charging no more than a market rent in return for the homes, premises and land that we let out.

“We’ve recently joined the most recognised independent benchmarking service within the sector, run by Savills. This has shown that we charge average market rent for our residential holdings, and around 20 per cent under market for agricultural rents.

“To suggest that we are pursuing a new, aggressively commercial agenda is unfair and inaccurate. In fact, our recent residential tenants’ satisfaction survey showed that the vast majority of our tenants are perfectly happy with the relationship we have with them and also that 8 in ten would recommend us to their friends and family.”

The article contains reference to three case studies:

Wickham Farm – a debate about market rental value is a normal part of any negotiation process; agreeing that critical benchmark is at the heart of reaching any final settlement. That we have not been able to reach an agreement with the tenants’ agents on this crucial figure, or how to calculate it, has been a major sticking point in making progress quickly. In addition, we have presented suggestions for the type of new conservation and public access activities that could make a real difference and form part of the rent ‘equation’. The tenant’s and our agents are meeting later this month to discuss the proposition. We very much hope to be able to move forward as a result.

Harbour Challenge – with our help and support, this charity has operated on-site rent-free for over a decade. It is now well established. The rental agreement will – as you would expect in any comparable situation – formalise the relationship we have with them so we can agree who is responsible for what on site. The rent we have proposed is around £6 per day and represents a huge discount on local market values. We continue, very happily, to publicise their work in our marketing material at Brownsea.

Marble Hill Lodge, Felbrigg – this is a longstanding dispute over a rental agreement where the tenants pay a very low, regulated rent but are responsible for repairs and maintenance. Over the last 35 years they have failed to maintain the property, have built an unauthorised conservatory and converted the loft. Gaining access to carry out a professional building survey has taken years to achieve and has revealed that the works are of such an extent that the structural integrity of the building has been compromised and the lodge is now seriously dilapidated and requires significant repair valued at £70k. We have offered various options which would not only ensure that the urgent repairs are done, at the Trust’s expense (even though this is not our responsibility), but also allow the Clements to stay in their home under a new agreement. These proposals have been discussed with the help of the local MP and we are all hopeful that an agreement can be reached.

Contact the National Trust press office on 0844 800 4955 press.office@nationaltrust.org.uk information on this issue and comment on the case studies included in the Sunday Times article.

Find out more about the National Trust and tenants here.

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

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…

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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.

National Trust – concerns remain around the Lobbying Bill

Yesterday, MPs debated the Lobbying Bill. Although it passed second reading, there were a good number of Parliamentarians who voiced their concerns about Part II of the Bill. Below we note the National Trust’s concerns and our desire for a thorough rethink of Part II of the Bill as it passes through the next stages in Parliament.

The National Trust supports greater transparency but we believe significant changes are needed to achieve an approach which improves transparency and accountability without undermining the positive role that charities play in enabling informed public policy debate. The Government has given verbal reassurances but these need to be backed by material changes if they are to remove uncertainty.

The National Trust has a long pedigree of involvement in public policy. Earlier in our history we worked in partnership with others in calling for the creation of National Parks. This resulted in a the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, a piece of legislation that over the years has protected and promoted access to many of the nation’s most loved landscapes. In the 1930s we promoted changes to allow the acceptance of historic assets in lieu of inheritance tax, which enabled the transfer into public ownership of many places of historic interest and architectural beauty for the enduring enjoyment of all.

More recently the National Trust’s Planning for People petition, calling on the government to think again on their reforms of the planning system, garnered more than 200,000 signatures from concerned members of the public. We also supported calls for a rethink on the future of the public forest estate; challenged the government to be braver in designating Marine Conservation Zones; have been involved in recent judicial reviews around the impacts of planning proposals which we believe have unacceptable detrimental impacts for places in our care; and have been working with others within and beyond the charity sector in promoting more opportunities for children to enjoy the benefits of playing outdoors and in nature.

We do all of the above in pursuit of our duty, described under our various Acts of Parliament, for promoting the permanent preservation of places of natural beauty and historic interest, and want to be confident that we are able to continue to do so.

Analysis by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, backed by legal opinion, shows that the Bill’s imprecision creates too many hostages to fortune. The Electoral Commission, which will have greater regulatory responsibilities under the new legislation, has also openly stated concern about how it will be wide open to interpretation and could impact the work of charities.

This is why we are backing calls by the NCVO for a careful rethink on Part II of the Bill.

A spokesman said: “Whilst we entirely support the intent of greater transparency, the Bill before Parliament is perplexing because it is entirely unclear in defining what is, and what is not, political lobbying.

“Significant changes are needed to ensure that we can be confident in a system which promotes transparency without undermining the positive role that organisations like the National Trust play.

“Charities play an important role in engaging citizens and politicians in informed policy debate around the charitable cause for which they stand. The Government has given verbal reassurances that this wont be undermined, but these reassurances need to be backed by material changes if they are to remove uncertainty from the Bill.”

Latest on ship run aground at Farne Islands

An 80m long ship that ran aground on the Farne Islands on Saturday morning remains stranded but in a stable position, National Trust rangers who look after the wildlife haven said.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency, which is handling the salvage operation, said there was no fuel leak from the MV Danio after it hit rocks on the Farne Islands off the Northumberland coast at 4.30am on Saturday.

It is anticipated that an attempt will made to tow the boat in the next two weeks when weather conditions are the most appropriate.

The National Trust is working closely with the salvage team and is optimistic that the boat can be safely removed without any environmental damage. 

The Trust’s local management team will continue to monitor the situation closely and are in full co-operation with the relevant authorities.

David Steel, the National Trust’s head ranger for the Farnes, told the Press Association: “We got lucky.

“The birds are not back and there does not seem to be any damage to the ship, so we got away with it.

“The Farnes are internationally-important for nesting sea birds. We have 80,000 pairs of sea birds including 37,000 pairs of puffins.”

Follow David and the team on the Farne Islands blog or on Twitter @NTsteely.

Protection for Lyveden “one step closer” thanks to High Court wind farm decision

The National Trust is delighted that the legal challenge to the High Court has succeeded against a Planning Inspector’s decision to grant planning permission for four wind turbines near Lyveden New Bield in Northamptonshire. 

The turbines would have overshadowed Lyveden’s Grade I listed Elizabethan Lodge and garden, having a significant impact on its peaceful, historic setting.

Lyveden showing mast height

Picture of Lyveden New Bield showing the height of proposed masts

The legal challenge was brought jointly by the National Trust, English Heritage and the local planning authority, East Northamptonshire Council.

The development had been approved by the Planning Inspector on appeal after planning permission was initially refused by East Northamptonshire Council.

The Judge found that the Inspector failed to fulfil his statutory duty under section 66 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 which requires him to have special regard to the desirability of preserving the setting of heritage assets when making his decision on whether or not to grant planning permission. 

She also found that the Inspector didn’t properly apply and interpret the relevant planning policies on the effect the development would have on the setting of Lyveden New Bield and that the Inspector failed to give adequate reasons for his decision.

On leaving the High Court, Mark Bradshaw, the National Trust’s Property Manager at Lyveden New Bield, said: “We are delighted with the outcome.

“We hope this brings to an end a five-year battle to preserve and protect the important setting of some of our most significant heritage assets.

“Lyveden is of international importance. The harm to heritage assets like Lyveden should be weighed against the benefits of wind farms.”

Director-General of the National Trust, Helen Ghosh, said: “Lyveden is a remarkable building with a very particular spirit.  We are delighted that our visitors’ experience of its beautiful setting is now one step closer to being safeguarded”.

“Clearly every legal case is different but this is an important decision in the defence of the historic environment from inappropriate development.”

Lyveden New Bield

The beautiful setting of Lyveden New Bield

The result means that a fresh planning inquiry will need to be convened to re-consider the appeal against the original planning decision.

The National Trust continues to believe that there is a case for wind power in the nation’s energy mix, but each wind farm proposal should be appropriate in site and scale.

For further media information please contact Cat Philpott.

Lyveden New Bield is one of England’s oldest garden landscapes and features an unfinished Tudor garden lodge, steeped in Catholic symbolism. Work on Lyveden stopped suddenly in 1605 when its creator, Sir Thomas Tresham, died and his son became embroiled in the Gunpowder Plot. The Elizabethan moats, mounts and terracing have been restored and the orchard re-planted with period varieties. There is a 3D video tour of the landscape here.

National Trust bitterly disappointed at court ruling on Giant’s Causeway development

We’ve posted previously on our legal challenge to a decision to grant planing permission for a golf course development in the setting of the Giant’s Causeway World Heritage Site. Today the High Court ruled against our challenge.

A National Trust spokesman said:

“The National Trust is bitterly disappointed by the Court’s ruling and we remain convinced that a massive development in the setting of this World Heritage Site is wrong.

“We still believe that if a development of this scale does go ahead in this location, the message is that nowhere in Northern Ireland, no matter how important or protected, is safe from development.

“The ruling today has served to highlight aspects of very serious concern for those partners involved in the care and protection of the World Heritage Site.

“It is essential that we work together to get planning policy right in Northern Ireland to ensure that appropriate development can happen, but not at the expense of our beautiful landscapes and historic places. 

“There are also significant issues regarding the relationship between Government in Northern Ireland, Great Britain and UNESCO that must be addressed to ensure the protection of our World Heritage Site for the long term.”

ENDS

Lyveden New Bield Judicial Review

The National Trust, together with English Heritage and the Local Planning Authority, East Northamptonshire District Council, issued a statutory appeal under section 288 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 in the Administrative Court in London against the Planning Inspector’s decision to grant planning permission for four wind turbines close to Lyveden New Bield.  

Evidence was originally heard on 4 December 2012 but the judgement had to be postponed and the case re-heard because of a perceived conflict of interest arising from the Judge’s membership of the National Trust.

The case will be re-heard at the High Court on 20 and 21 February 2013.

The court will decide whether the Planning Inspector went about making his decision in the correct way.  If the appeal is successful the wind farm development proposal will be subject to redetermination. If the appeal is unsuccessful the Planning Inspector’s decision to grant planning permission will stand.