HS2: Hybrid Bill

On Monday 25 November the HS2 Bill had its first reading in the House of Commons. Accompanied by the biggest Environmental Statement in UK history, we have our work cut out to assess it.

To date the 400-page hybrid bill, with an additional 50,000 page Environmental Statement, has received the most criticism for its size. With just 59 days in which to read it, the surrounding media coverage is focusing on campaigners facing a Christmas of trying to get to grips with what the proposal means. Once the one tonne document has been digested, which is set to be a complex task, opponents will have to put together their arguments ready for the consultation.

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National Trust reaction to the shelving of the Atlantic Array offshore wind farm in the Bristol Channel

Simon Pryor, Natural Environment Director at the National Trust said: “This is an enormous relief; we have said all along that proposing such a huge wind farm so close to such a wild and beautiful coastline was disastrous. It would have had a massive impact on the views from some of our most spectacular coast in North Devon and South Wales, as well as Lundy Island.

“The Atlantic Array was at the wrong scale and in the wrong place. We’ve always said that the process that arrived at that site was flawed and call on Government to rethink how we identify and license these sites in the future.

“We’re totally committed to renewable energy and hope that this presents an opportunity for a better discussion on how we best harness energy from the Severn estuary – one of the places with the highest potential for tidal power.

“There is a need to find a strategic solution and a plan-led approach to harnessing energy in a way that maximises generation, minimises the landscape impacts and enhances the natural environment. This can be achieved if we look at a real mix of generation at a smaller scale and more carefully chosen locations.”


Reaction to creation of 27 Marine Conservation Zones in England

The Government today outlined the creation of 27 Marine Conservation Zones in England.  Here is the National Trust reaction to the announcement:

Phil Dyke, Coastal and Marine Adviser at the National Trust, said: “The National Trust, as a partner in the first Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ), set up in the waters around Lundy, has first-hand experience of the considerable benefits of protected zones for nature conservation. We therefore very much welcome the Government’s announcement today to designate 27 Marine Conservation Zones as a positive first step in creating a larger and coherent network of protected areas in our marine environment.

“We’ll look closely at the government’s proposed approach to designate further MCZs through to 2017 – it’s vital that the process moves quickly to establish a network of MCZs at the scale required to secure a healthy future for our marine environment. Key to this will be sustaining momentum, building on the considerable energy, consensus and commitment secured from partners engaged in the earlier processes of consultation for selecting MCZs.”

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 responds to Defra’s sweet chestnut and plane tree importation controls

Dr Simon Pryor, Director of the Natural Environment at the National Trust said:

“The introduction of these tighter import controls is good news for our native trees.  This is an extremely complex issue to address and this is an important step for commercial tree importers in particular.  But more still needs to be done to further tighten up regulations for the more ‘informal’ tree importer, such as landscape gardeners and the wider general public. 

“We are pleased to see these new regulations come into force and would also call for more to be done with other tree species over the coming months to give us even greater reassurance of the health of imported tree stocks; but to also prevent future outbreaks of diseases such as ash dieback.”