HS2 Committee unlikely to accept fully bored tunnel through the Chilterns AONB

Mr Robert Syms MP, Chair of the High Speed Rail Bill Select Committee, delivered a statement on 21st July to the effect that the Select Committee is strongly of the view that the case for a long tunnel has not been made, and that without prejudicing the arguments the Committee may hear from future petitioners the Committee believes it is unlikely that an overwhelming case will be made out for a long tunnel option through the Chilterns.

Richard Hebditch, the National Trust’s External Affairs Director responded to this announcement: “We’re disappointed that the Committee already seem to be ruling out a long tunnel under the Chilterns.

“Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty have that designation because of their importance to the nation. As the nation’s biggest infrastructure project for decades, the HS2 project should have the best mitigation for its route through the AONB. In our view, that means a fully bored tunnel. We hope that the Committee will think again on this when they hear from individual petitioners in the coming months.”

Magna Carta commemorated 800 years on

Eight hundred years ago today at Runnymede, Magna Carta was sealed by King John in front of the feudal barons. ‘The Great Charter’ held the king accountable to the law. As witness to the historic events of 15 June 1215, Runnymede is seen by many as the foundation of liberty. Continue reading

Head for the hills – are ewe the right person for this one-off shepherding opportunity?

The National Trust is looking for a second shepherd to support an innovative conservation project in the foothills of Snowdon in North Wales.

Herding the sheep on the mountains above Hafod Y Llan. Credit Joe Cornish

Herding the sheep on the mountains above Hafod Y Llan. Credit Joe Cornish

The conservation charity’s in-hand farm, Hafod-y-Llan, manages 1600 Welsh Mountain sheep and every day between May and September, some of the flock is shepherded to new grazing areas away from any sensitive mountain habitats such as upland heaths and flushes (wet, boggy areas), in a bid to improve plant diversity on areas of the mountain.

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Mount Stewart celebrates completion of £8m restoration

Mount Stewart, on the shores of Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland opens today after a three year, £8million restoration project sees this grand house returned to its former glory.

The Central Hall at Mount Stewart. Credit Elaine Hill

The Central Hall at Mount Stewart. Credit Elaine Hill

Visitors to the National Trust landmark can now enjoy the reinvigorated and re-decorated house with previously unopened rooms including the butler’s silver store and billiard room. Continue reading

Trust launches consultation on proposed changes to final salary pension scheme

The National Trust has today (Monday 9 March 2015) begun formal negotiations on the proposed closure of its defined pension scheme to future accrual on 31 March 2016.

Consultation on the closure of the National Trust Retirement and Death Benefits Scheme will last for 60 days, to ensure staff have plenty of time to contribute their views. Negotiations will be made through the Trust’s recognised trade union Prospect.

Following our most recent valuation it is likely that the scheme will show a deficit of £116m (as at 5 April 2014).

This increased from £69m since our last three-year valuation in 2011.   We have therefore agreed in principle with the pension scheme trustees to significantly increase our deficit recovery payments from £3m a year now to £8.5m a year from 2016.  This will increase by CPI+1% year on year until 2029.   

We have maintained the scheme for as long as possible through good financial management.  However, we have made these proposals now because we feel we can no longer sustain the level of cost and risk associated with providing a defined benefit pension scheme without it impacting on our ability to fulfil our core purpose of looking after thousands of special places on behalf of the nation forever, for everyone. 

The defined benefit scheme closed to new entrants in 2003 and therefore the proposed changes would impact around 1,200 members of staff or approximately 16% of our permanent workforce. 

Should the proposals be adopted, members of staff would join 2,500 colleagues in our defined contributions scheme from 1 April 2016.  In this scheme we would match any contributions they make between 4% and 10%. We feel this represents a good pension scheme for a charity and would ensure greater parity of benefit across our whole workforce. 

These proposed changes do not impact on the benefits of existing pensioners or deferred members of the defined benefit scheme.

The decision to make these proposals has not been easy and one which we have deliberated over for some time.  However, we believe that the steps we are proposing to take will not only secure employees’ accrued benefits but also provide greater financial stability for the Trust in the long term.


Flipping pancakes launches Glendurgan maze appeal

The team at the National Trust’s Glendurgan garden near Falmouth in Cornwall is asking for support to raise a £50,000 ‘hedge fund’ to help pay for ongoing work which will keep its 180 year old maze healthy and open to visitors. Continue reading

Blooming Valentines set to beat the winter blues with 17 per cent more flowers

This year’s milder, calmer and less wet winter has been much kinder to gardens as gardeners and volunteers have found in the Trust’s annual Valentines Flower Count. Continue reading