New Year Honours 2015: CBE for former National Trust director

After nearly 30 years of service to the National Trust, the former Museums and Collections Director Sarah Staniforth has been appointed Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in the New Year Honours list.

Former National Trust Museums and Collections Director Sarah Staniforth

Former National Trust Museums and Collections Director Sarah Staniforth was appointed CBE in New Year Honours 2015. Credit National Trust / Chris Lacey

Ms Staniforth, who stepped down from her post this year to take an honorary position at the Trust, was credited for her services to National Heritage.

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Red squirrel recovery

Following recent positive reports about red squirrels in the north of England, we revisit the story of the red squirrels at Formby. Countryside Manager Andrew Brockbank charts a challenging few years for the red squirrels on this stretch of the Sefton coast in Lancashire.

Formby

National Trust Formby is in the heart of the Sefton Coast pine wood reserve of 400 hectares (1000 acres).

The surrounding landscape is part of the North Merseyside red squirrel stronghold, which extends from the northern fringes of Liverpool to Southport, including part of West Lancashire.

Pine woods are a very valuable habitat for red squirrels. At Formby they can be at high density of up to one red squirrel in every acre.

Red squirrels eat a variety of berries, seeds and shoots of trees but pine cones and seeds form the mainstay of their diet.

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A review of 2014: the year of the biting fly

Extreme weather in 2014 created an unpredictable rollercoaster of a year for our beleaguered wildlife and saw a raft of migrant species visiting our shores, say experts at the National Trust in their annual wildlife and weather round-up.

As a result of the warm, often wet summer, this year’s wildlife winners include biting flies, slugs and snails. More positively, many resident birds, mammals and amphibians also had good breeding seasons, although the picture is patchy and localised.

Birling Gap, Credit National Trust

Birling Gap, Credit National Trust

The year, however, will be most remembered for the winter storms in January and February; indicating the challenges that the natural world could face with the growing extremes of weather some of which may be caused by climate change.

National Trust rangers looking after the 742 miles of coastline cared for by the charity across England, Wales and Northern Ireland witnessed several years’ worth of erosion, while inland many of the Trust’s gardens and parklands suffered their greatest tree losses in almost 30 years.

Little terns along the Norfolk coast at Blakeney had to nest in low areas as a result of severe tidal surges which changed the beach profile. High tides followed in mid-June and flooded the seabirds’ nests resulting in a very poor breeding season.

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The six scones of Christmas

One of the nation’s favourite tea-time treats has been given a Christmas makeover by a National Trust chef who has devised six festive scones to compete with the traditional mince pie.

The traditional Christmas dinner in scones. Credit Robert Conwell.

The traditional Christmas dinner in scones. Credit Robert Conwell.

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New report shows that planning policy needs to put people and places first

Reacting to the publication today (16 December 2014) of the Communities and Local Government Select Committee report on the operation of the National Policy Planning Framework (NPPF), Richard Hebditch, assistant director of external affairs at the National Trust, said: “The National Trust welcomes the findings of this cross-party report. The Government needs to tackle loopholes in the NPPF which mean it is too open to challenge from ‘streetwise’ developers.

“The Committee’s findings are the latest in a growing body of evidence that the NPPF is allowing developers to ignore the local communities it said would be at the very heart of its new approach. New National Trust research shows that even where a council has a local plan in place, these are being challenged by developers.

“The Government’s planning rules need revising so that they put people and places first.”

Housing developers ‘gaming’ the planning system to get new estates built in countryside

Developers are ‘gaming’ the planning system to get applications approved for lucrative new housing estates in the countryside – even in areas where councils had plans in place to meet housing needs in other locations,  new research by the National Trust has revealed.

The conservation charity found flaws in the government’s planning rules were being exploited by developers to get homes built on green-field sites even though local authorities had never intended them to be built on.

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was introduced two years ago to boost development and tackle the housing crisis by cutting red tape. At the time ministers pledged that local communities would be given a greater say over planning rules and decisions on new development. New local plans would be ‘sovereign.’

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Taking weeding to the extreme!

Having a head for heights is a pre-requisite for the four strong team of gardeners at St Michael’s Mount, located just off the south Cornwall coast.

As part of the work to conserve the 12th Century castle, the granite stone walls need weeding three times each year to ensure the walls are constantly kept clear.

St Michael's Mount where gardeners go to 'extreme' lengths to keep the walls weed free. Credit Steven Haywood

St Michael’s Mount where gardeners go to ‘extreme’ lengths to keep the walls weed free. Credit Steven Haywood

The only way the gardeners can carry out their work is to abseil down the 50 metre high castle walls. Continue reading