AGM Results and Statements

The results for the members’ resolutions are as follows: 

Stonehenge A303 motion:

Total votes For            21,903

Total votes Against       30,013

These votes are made up as follows:

Specified votes For                21,898

Specified votes Against             23,303

Discretionary votes For             5

Discretionary votes Against      6,710

Abstentions                     11,089

Result:  The resolution is not carried

Statement on Stonehenge motion result:

National Trust members at today’s annual general meeting have voted against a resolution challenging our conditional support for a tunnel to reduce traffic on the A303 at Stonehenge.

As the Board of Trustees set out in their response, we believe that a tunnel can provide an overall benefit to the whole World Heritage Site if delivered with the utmost care for the surrounding archaeology and chalk grassland landscape.

We share members’ passion for this place and our response to the recent public consultation sets out where we think improvements still need to be made. We will only fully support a scheme when we are convinced it is designed well and will be of overall benefit.

Trail hunting cessation motion:

Total votes For          30,686

Total votes Against       30,985

These votes are made up as follows:

Specified votes For           28,629

Specified votes Against      27,525

Discretionary votes For      2,057

Discretionary votes Against          3,460

Abstentions                1,925

Result:  The resolution is not carried

Statement

National Trust members at today’s annual general meeting have voted against a resolution for the cessation of “trail-hunting” on all land belonging to the charity.

Prior to the vote, the charity’s Trustees had recommended that the activity should be allowed to continue after recent improvements in licensing conditions to further safeguard conservation and access on the Trust’s land.

The conservation charity has been carefully listening to both sides of a highly polarised and passionate debate for years.

We are pleased members have had the opportunity to debate this issue and have voted to support the Trustees’ position.

ends 

Notes to editors: 

Background on the National Trust and trail hunting:

In August we introduced a number of changes in how we license trail ‘hunts’ to further safeguard conservation and access on our land. Our clear, robust, and transparent set of conditions – which followed a six month review – were designed to allow participants to enjoy this activity in compatibility with our conservation aims. The changes can be seen here: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/our-position-on-trail–hunting

  • Hunting wild animals was outlawed in England and Wales by the Hunting Act of 2004: National Trust land is no exception.  The law does allow what is known as trail ‘hunting’ to continue. It effectively replicates a traditional hunt but without a fox being chased, injured or killed.  The Trust does license trail ‘hunts’ in some areas and at certain times of the year, where it is compatible with our aims of public access and conservation.
  •  It’s been a long standing licence condition for all hunts to publicly provide details of where and when they will take place on our land. This is not a new licensing condition and this information has never been a secret.
  •  Currently, many people do contact hunts directly for the information they are entitled to have access to. However, they will then come to the Trust if they don’t get the detail they’ve requested. We believe people have every right to expect us to provide this information so they can, for example, avoid certain areas of countryside when a hunt is taking place or conversely to watch a hunt in their local area. Relying however on small, local teams to respond to a high volume of enquiries related to hunts is a labour-intensive and exhaustive process. It’s also an ineffective way of sharing this information in the digital age, lacking consistency and clarity.
  • As a charity with nearly 5 million members, we believe we should be transparent and to share information of public interest in an easily accessible way. That’s why we are planning to provide details of where and when hunts will take on the ‘outdoor licensing page’ of our website.
  • We believe it is right to minimise as far as possible the risk of foxes or any wild animal being accidentally chased during a trail hunt; moving to artificial scents is part of achieving that aim. We are not being prescriptive about the artificial scent used provided it is not animal based in any way.
  • We are making it explicitly clear to all parties that trail hunting, if properly practised, is legal and a legitimate outdoor activity. We will be approaching trail hunting bodies as well as the League Against Cruel Sports with the express aim of reducing as far as possible the potential for violent or abusive and obstructive behaviour by protestors or followers.
  • We propose to publish on our website the area over which the hunt is licensed to carry out their trail hunting activity, together with the dates on which it will take place. We are not proposing to publish starting points, specific routes and times. We have met with the Masters of Foxhounds Association and Countryside Alliance to listen to their concerns and asked them to put forward any alternative proposals. We are also seeking the views of police. Both the MFHA and CA have acknowledged what we are trying to achieve and we will consider the proposals that they bring forward.
  • We also received a letter from tenants in the Lake District outlining concerns. We have responded and offered to meet them to discuss how we can ensure that trail hunting can operate safely.
  • We keep in regular contact with our tenant farmers. Since the creation of trail hunting post-2004 Hunting Act, we have been in charge of licensing this type of outdoor activity. We have always required trail hunts to gain tenant farmer consent for the trail hunt to cross their occupied land.
  • Tenants have never been the licensor: this is exactly the same as for other landowners. We have tightened rules so that the evidence of prior tenant farmer permission is written, not anecdotal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Our response to concerns over Modern Ground Rents

The Trust grants many leases of houses to tenants up and down the country. Among these are leasehold tenants who bought their homes under ‘long leases’ which originally lasted for more than 21 years. Under the terms of the Leasehold Reform Act, long leasehold tenants have the right to extend their leases by up to 50 years in return for a payment of a higher, Modern Ground Rent.

The Trust has discovered that some long leasehold tenants were not aware of the way in which Modern Ground Rents work and had not been properly advised by their solicitors or valuers when they bought their properties. So those tenants have understandably been taken by surprise by the higher level of rent charged and we are working with them to find a fair solution.

Government legislation determines how modern ground rent is calculated and is based on the current value of the land, which will have increased significantly since the tenants originally bought their leases.

We have around 300 leaseholders who may be affected by modern ground rent, and are in discussions with those who have approached us in order to agree a solution.

We have listened to the concerns of leaseholders who were affected and have agreed in the relevant cases that it is fair to share the financial impact and have reduced the Modern Ground Rents by 50%. As a charity, in order to be able to make a reduction in the modern ground rent, we had to apply for permission to the Charity Commission which they granted.

We know that some leaseholders feel they have been misled as to the impact of modern ground rent and we take those concerns very seriously. If we are satisfied that that has happened then we will consider foregoing modern ground rent altogether, which we have already done in one case.

We are very aware of how distressing it has been for some of our tenants who discovered they would have to pay much more to live in their homes and we are continuing to work with them and the tenant representatives to reach an agreement.

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Updated media statement on Felbrigg badges

The National Trust was established “for the benefit of the Nation” and we passionately believe our purpose is to make everyone feel welcome at our places, as our founders would have wanted.

We are using the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality as an opportunity to tell the stories of the people at some of our places, whose personal lives were outside the social norms of their time.

We hugely value our volunteers and many across the country have taken the opportunity to get involved in developing our Prejudice and Pride programme, which explores LGBTQ heritage.

At Felbrigg, many volunteers have enthusiastically supported a new exhibition, which looks at the life of the extraordinarily generous Robert Ketton–Cremer.  His decision to leave the house to the Trust was the result in part of the fact that he had never married and had no heirs.

We asked all our staff and volunteers at the house to wear rainbow lanyards or badges during the six-week event as welcoming symbol to all our visitors.  We remain absolutely committed to our Pride programme, which will continue as intended, along with the exhibition at Felbrigg.

However, we are aware that some volunteers had conflicting, personal opinions about wearing the rainbow lanyards and badges. That was never our intention.

We are therefore making it clear to volunteers that the wearing of the badge is optional and a personal decision.  We will be speaking to all our volunteers at Felbrigg over the coming days about this issue.

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Heritage partners respond to report on proposed Stonehenge tunnel

The UNESCO World Heritage Centre, and its heritage advisors ICOMOS International, have published a report on the Government’s developing plans for a major upgrade of the A303 which cuts across the Stonehenge World Heritage Site (WHS).

 The early plans, which went to a first round of public consultation earlier this year, include proposals for the construction of a tunnel of at least 2.9km in order to remove much of the damaging A303 from the WHS.

 In a joint statement, the National Trust, English Heritage and Historic England said:  

“We’re disappointed that the ICOMOS report largely ignores both the benefits of removing a large stretch of the A303 and the danger of doing nothing at all.  

“The A303 cuts through the heart of the Stonehenge world heritage site, splitting it in two and causing damage to this ancient landscape, pollution and delays for thousands caught up in the traffic jams that have blighted the area for decades. With traffic set to increase, maintaining the status quo is not an option for anyone who cares about the heritage and history of this unique site.  

“We believe that if well-designed and sited with the utmost care for the surrounding archaeology and chalk grassland landscape, the tunnel proposal presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to provide a setting worthy of some of the nation’s most important ancient monuments and will bring huge benefits in terms of public access, nature conservation and protecting the nation’s heritage. 

“The report rightly points out that further work is needed on the proposals. Our three organisations are champions for this remarkable site and we want to reach the best possible outcome for it. We have challenged aspects of the scheme which we have concerns about and we have called for the proposed routes at the last consultation to be significantly improved. We also recognise there are others in the heritage community who could make a valuable contribution and welcome the recommendation of setting up a scientific committee as soon as possible to bring this expertise together.

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The National Trust names new Director of Curation and Experience

The National Trust has appointed John Orna-Ornstein as its first Director of Curation and Experience.

John will join the conservation charity from Arts Council England, where he has been the national Director of Museums and regional director for arts and culture in the East of England.

During that time, he has played a key role in funding, developing and advocating for England’s regional museums at a time of huge pressure on their public funding.

He spent his early career as a curator in the British Museum’s department of coins and medals, going on to lead the museum’s programme of national work and its community partnerships across London.

John will join the Trust in June and will lead the delivery of one of the charity’s key strategic aims – to provide experiences for its visitors that ‘move, teach and inspire’ across its many built and outdoor places.

He will have specific responsibility for leading the curatorial and visitor experience strategies at the Trust, which welcomed a record numbers of people to its houses, countryside and coastline last year.

Helen Ghosh, the Trust’s Director General, said: “John’s career is an impressive blend of curation, public engagement and arts experience, both at a hands-on and strategic level, making him the outstanding candidate for this key role.

“It’s an exciting time for John to be joining our charity. We’re doubling the number of curators we employ – from 36 to around 65 full time staff over the next two years.  These changes mean that the Trust is committed to investing more in curatorial excellence than at any time in its history.”

Commenting on his appointment, John said: “The National Trust cares for many of my favourite places as well as some extraordinary collections.

“I’m enormously excited to have the opportunity to work with the Trust in bringing those places and collections to life, and making sure they are relevant to the widest possible range of people across the UK.

“As I leave Arts Council England I’m proud of what it is achieving, and particularly of the new funding and support it is making available to museums. I’ll look forward to exploring new opportunities for the Trust to collaborate with artists, creative organisations and museums.”

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Thorneythwaite Farm QAs

The National Trust has received a number of questions relating to the purchase of land at Thorneythwaite, in the Lake District.

Below, we have provided answers to the most common queries to try and help people understand our approach.

Why did the Trust want to buy the land at Thorneythwaite? 

The land at Thorneythwaite was split into two plots by the auctioneers: the farm land and a farm house. The Trust used its charitable funds to bid for the land rather than the building.

This was a once in a generation opportunity to secure this beautiful landscape for the nation.

We are passionate about conserving the beauty and uniqueness of the Lake District. We bid for this land because it offers such amazing places for wildlife including woodland featuring veteran trees, riverside fields, open craggy fell and wood pasture. It is home to a wealth of important wildlife including redstarts and pied flycatchers.

We believe we can look after this land in way which benefits nature, our visitors and the local community. Managing much of the surrounding land in Borrowdale means we can take a ‘big picture’ view of how we manage the wider landscape, and it allows us to focus on delivering healthy soil, natural water management, thriving natural habitats and continued public access.

We will also explore how we may be able to use the farm to slow the flow of the Upper River Derwent, thereby contributing to the prevention of flooding downstream in communities such as Keswick and Cockermouth.

What does the sale mean for the future of Herdwick farming and why has a working farm been broken up?

The Trust has a long history of, and is committed to the tradition of Herdwick farming. We have an existing stock of 21,000 Herdwicks and own 90 farms in the Lake District, 54 of which are fell farms.

The Trust did not break up the farm. The private owners decided to sell the land in two separate plots – thereby splitting the land and the farm. The Trust used its charitable funds to bid for the land rather than the building. We did not have the funds to buy both lots and prioritised the 300 acres of land.

There was still an opportunity for someone to purchase both parcels together after we had bid for the land.

The land will be managed by a tenant, and we have already had several expressions of interest. It will be farmed with nature in mind but it will continue to support a flock of Herdwick sheep.

We understand some people believe we should also have bought the farm house and continued to manage the land in the same way. However, given our limited funds, we believe that this was the right approach and we’re pleased to have secured the land for the nation.

Why put in a bid of £950,000 – when the guide price was £750,000?

The guide price was £750,000 for the land. This is where the auction process gets quite complex.

The private owner decided to spilt the land and the farm into two separate lots for sale to maximise the value. The Trust had no influence over the vendor’s decision to do this i.e (the farm was split up by the vendor not the Trust).

The guide price for both was around £1.55m, although they were marketed as two individual lots: with a guide price of £750,000 for the land and £800,000 for the farm and buildings.

Despite being sold as two separate lots, the auctioneer also reserved the right to package both together at the end of process – once all the bids were in – to ensure they achieved the highest price possible (i.e. bids were not binding until this final stage where they could all be effectively gazumped).

That meant that even if the Trust was the highest bidder for the land – it would face the risk of losing it if the auctioneer decided to package the two together for a price it could not afford.

The £950,000 bid was therefore a calculation based on how much the Trust would need to offer to secure the land and minimise the risk of losing out if the two lots were sold together.

In making our bid we were also guided by the independent valuation, which was much higher than the asking price. This took into account the internationally important conservation features of the land; it offers a rich and diverse mosaic of habitats including woodland featuring veteran trees, riverside fields, open craggy fell and wood pasture; home to a wealth of important wildlife.

The Trust did not have the funds to buy both the farm and the land.

What will happen to the flock of sheep on the land?

The land acquired does not become ours until 14 October 2016. The land purchase included a flock of sheep, and they are currently still the responsibility of the Lodore Estate and their current tenant.

After the 14 October, the sheep will be owned by the National Trust. We are currently talking to a number of National Trust agricultural tenants from the Borrowdale valley, following a number of expressions of interest to help us manage the land and the flock of sheep. It will continue to support a flock of Herdwick sheep.

Where are the tenants supposed to live?  

There is no existing tenant at Thorneythwaite Farm, so no-one is being displaced as part of this sale. The Trust is currently discussing management arrangements with a number of National Trust agricultural tenants from within the Borrowdale valley, following a number of expressions of interest to help us manage the land.

What would Beatrix Potter think? 

The Trust believes in the upholding the cultural legacy of the pastoral landscape and share Beatrix Potter’s love and passion for the Lake District.

However, we also recognise that world has changed, and will keep on changing. The way we maintain those traditions must therefore also change and adapt with it.

 

National Trust statement on releasing land for housing

We are not against development in principle, to the contrary we are for good development. We have always supported good quality housing built in the right place as identified in local plans and which meets our planning principles.

Working with the local planning system to make good choices for the location and design of development is absolutely essential. That is why we want to ensure the planning system is well resourced and effective – so that everyone benefits.

When we very occasionally release land for development we aim to use it as an opportunity to showcase what good housing can look like.

We only sell land for development when we are completely satisfied that any proposed scheme passes a rigorous set of design and environmental standards we apply as part of our decision-making process. The proposed development at Pyrland north of Taunton is a good example of this.

On our land at Pyrland, we propose to set aside a large proportion of green space for the residents of the new homes and those already living nearby. Proposals include footpaths, cycleways, community allotments, orchards and conservation areas. We are also proposing that the historic parkland landscape at Pyrland is restored and made accessible to the public for the first time.

The land at Pyrland was left to the Trust by John Adams who gave it at the same time that he gave us Fyne Court. It was his wish that we would sell this land to raise funds to look after Fyne Court and other special places in our care in Somerset. As always, we have ensured that the sale and development of the land complies with the wishes of the donor who gave it to us.

The vast majority of our land is held forever, for everyone. Housing development takes place on only a tiny fraction of our land.  Less than 0.01% is currently allocated for housing in local plans and proposed for development by the Trust. The proceeds from this goes straight back into our conservation work.