Further to the relaxation of planning protections for the green belt proposed yesterday by the government, the National Trust said:
“We are concerned and will be looking closely at the implications of what is being proposed.
“Green Belt prevents urban sprawl, keeping town and villages distinct and special, which is why we think it is important to maintain the protections it offers.
“We don’t have urban sprawl in England in the same way that other countries do because of our history of development planning, and the designation of Green Belts in particular, and we weaken that enduring protection at our peril.
“As a nation we need more houses and many of these can be built in cities. We should be aiming for sustainable growth, where we make the best use of available brownfield sites. Any release of undeveloped land for housing should be considered carefully, as a community prepares its local plan.”
The National Trust today welcomed the publication of a Surrey Fire and Rescue Service report into the cause of the devastating fire at Clandon Park earlier this year.
Investigators concluded the fire was accidental and the probable cause was a defect in an electrical distribution board.
The distribution board, located in a cupboard in the basement, ‘could be assumed was delivered from the manufacturer with this fault,’ according to the report.
The Trust said none of its staff would have been able to identify this as a potential issue. The fault had not been detected during a number of previous professional checks by electricians.
Trained staff at the 18th century mansion near Guildford, Surrey evacuated all visitors safely after the fire broke out at around 4pm, on April 29. No-one was injured.
The fire spread from the basement through the lift shaft, voids and into the roof, the report found. The wind blew the fire from one side of the roof to the other. The fire then burnt down to the floors below, leaving 95% of the house damaged by the fire.
Despite having some measures in place to limit the spread of fire, these had not been enough to slow the blaze once it had taken hold. The Trust said it was committed to working closely with the fire service to identify any areas for improvements in its processes – and would act on any they found.
The charity is also in the process of carrying out its own in-depth review of its fire prevention policies at all its properties to see where they can be strengthened further.
This will include checking distribution boards at all its historic mansions and looking at whether there are any further steps it can take to prevent and slow the spread of fires in future.
A well-rehearsed salvage plan also meant a significant number of valuable items were saved from the fire. The Trust is continuing to work closely with its insurers, who are carrying out their own in-depth investigation into the fire.
Around 400 items have been saved to date from the fire. A team of specialist salvage operators are currently in the process of painstakingly sifting through the debris within the house to locate further items.
The Trust has already announced that Clandon will be rebuilt in some shape or form. It’s considering options for the house. Scaffolding is being erected around the house and a temporary roof will be put in place.
Commenting on the report, the Trust’s Director-General, Helen Ghosh, said: “The fire at Clandon was a terrible blow, with the loss of such a significant historic interior and so much of the important collections it housed. The response of staff, volunteers and the local community showed how much Clandon meant to so many people.
“The report from Surrey Fire and Rescue Service is welcome and important to us. The fact that we had a well- rehearsed salvage plan meant we were able to save a number of significant items from the fire, and our fire detection systems also operated as they should have done.
“But we’re certainly not complacent and we now will be working with the fire service to identify any areas for improvement in any of our properties. We have already begun a full review of our processes and systems to see where they can be strengthened further. If there are lessons for us to learn – we will act upon them and share them with others who look after historic buildings.”
The fire report by Surrey Fire and Rescue Service can be read here
Watch our video update on the fire report here
A spokesperson from the National Trust said:
“There is a need for more new housing, and when it works well, our planning system can ensure this goes in the most appropriate locations, and that we build places people want to live in.
“This new research is concerning, because it suggests that inflexible targets mean that in some areas the local vision for development is being bypassed, with the best sites going undeveloped, whilst less suitable sites are approved. This is a problem we also identified in our 2014 report, Positive Planning. Government should ensure that local authorities are not penalised for setting ambitious targets for new housing, and keep its housing supply rules under review to ensure the Local Plan is sovereign.”