National Trust response to Spending Review

The National Trust outlines below its response to the Spending Review announcements made today.

Richard Hebditch, External Affairs Director for the National Trust, said: “The Government’s commitment to ensure the new commercial model for English Heritage will have sufficient funding is very welcome, as is recognition of the importance of heritage, and Historic England, more generally. Within Defra’s budgets, we’re particularly pleased to see the protection of funding for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, National Parks and public forests. In the last Parliament, Nick Clegg also announced funding for Natural England to complete the England Coastal Path by 2020 but we have to see confirmation that that funding will continue – we trust it will.

“Though there has been good news in terms of some of DCMS and Defra’s settlements, we’re disappointed to see further reforms proposed for the planning system, on top of those proposed in the Housing and Planning Bill. Local council planning teams have been cut back by more than 40% in the last five years. Further changes to planning rules will place additional burdens on these teams, and risk destabilising the Government’s plans for good quality housebuilding.”

National Trust responds to Defra’s Plant Security Strategy

Today (April 30) an updated Tree Health Management Plan has been published by the Government’s Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Expert Taskforce, alongside a wider Plant Biosecurity Strategy.

Reacting to the reports, a spokesperson at the National Trust said: “We welcome the publication of the strategy but it is unclear if there is sufficient funding or resources being allocated to this problem to really make a difference.

“Trees and plants don’t have votes so cuts to Defra’s budgets are sometimes seen as easier for Government but the consequences can be devastating for our wildlife, landscapes and rural economy.”

National Trust reaction to Government announcement on badgers

Patrick Begg, Rural Enterprises Director at the National Trust, said: “We’re pleased that the Government has recognised the need to learn lessons from the pilots. We wrote to Defra last year expressing our deepest concerns about the conduct of the culls, so it’s encouraging that they appear to be listening.

“We welcome their commitment to looking harder at the potential of vaccination at the heart of a suite of measures to get this devastating disease under control, including funding for vaccination projects and continued efforts to reduce the risks of cattle giving other cattle the disease – still the greatest route for the infection to spread. We’ve funded our own large vaccination programme on our Killerton estate so we’re pleased Defra are now looking to support programmes like this.

“What is clear to us, as an organisation that cares about wildlife and our farm tenants who carry out much of our conservation work in the wider countryside, is that the Government’s actions must be based on sound scientific evidence and meet highest possible standards of conduct, or risk making this devastating disease even worse. We are pleased that they appear to be listening, but will need to look at the detail of the strategy and the panel’s report before concluding our position.”

CAP and future proofing farming

National Trust Rural Enterprises Director, Patrick Begg, reflects on the announcement today by the Government on how its carving up funds from the Common Agricultural Policy:

I wonder in life if there’s always a slightly misplaced sense of relief whenever dodging a metaphorical bullet?  Perhaps that’s why the announcements today on England’s Common Agricultural Policy settlement has solicited an initial huge sigh of relief followed by a more reflective, at least in me, air of disquiet about the general direction of travel.  

It’s refreshing that DEFRA has battled hard to bolster support for agri-environment schemes and the promised staged move from 12% to 15% of funds transferred from Pillar 1 to Pillar 2 (if delivered) will be a positive move [1].  Also, the emerging design of the new green farming schemes looks progressive and in many ways enlightened.  In fact, there’s a sense that the concept of fundamental environmental protection and enhancement lying at the heart of the future of a sustainable farming system has retained and even strengthened its currency in DEFRA.  Owen Paterson has stuck to his mantra of “public goods for public money.”

But if you delve deeper the Government’s core focus on the short term growth agenda in the countryside at the cost of long term viability of farming is still a major concern.  The late interventions from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Treasury to try and divert vital funds within Pillar 2 away from  farming that benefits nature to Local Enterprise Partnerships-led rural growth schemes confirms this persistent threat.  And make no bones about it, in real terms, over the course of the next 7 years, there will be less cash available to encourage the style of farming that safeguards and nurtures soils, water and wildlife and delivers real public benefit for the investment of huge sums of public money.  We cannot be pleased with that overarching truth.

No-one can disagree that environmental quality is the fundamental building block of a healthy and resilient countryside and that it lies at the heart of farming’s future.  Likewise, sustaining and increasing public support for farming and its role in delivering a rich and beautiful landscape must be critical.  Yet every indicator tells us that England’s natural environment is under pressure and in decline like never before.  We also know that people have become disconnected from the natural world and the outdoors at an alarming rate.  

Without well-resourced and robust long term plans for improving the quality of the environment, it’s hard to see how farming’s future, and the sense of instinctive public support that it enjoys, can be secured.  DEFRA needs to continue to fight, make and win the case for a broader and deeper commitment to future-proofing farming and securing its environmental foundations, whether through direct or indirect subsidies.


[1] Pillar 1 is made up of direct subsidies that go to farmers and Pillar 2 consists of money from the Rural Development Programme which supports schemes to improve the farmed environment, boost rural economies and improve competitiveness.

Response to Defra’s recommendations of the Tree Health and Biosecurity Task Force announced this morning

Dr Simon Pryor, Natural Environment Director at the National Trust said: “We welcome the moves announced by Defra today.  It’s particularly good that it has accepted the remaining plant health taskforce recommendations.

“We are pleased to see a strategy and high level commitment to reprioritise resources and we look forward to hearing more in the spring about the measures being put in place to protect the UK from future plant and tree health diseases. 

“Government must also ensure we have the resources to tackle those diseases already here, as well as any future ones.”

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.”

Join me for a walk George, says National Trust DG Helen Ghosh

“Last week (October 24th) the Times published a front page story headlined “We’re open to fracking, says National Trust boss,” which suggested that our position on wind energy and fracking had changed. The use of selective quotes from this interview gave a false impression of where the Trust stands on these controversial issues and the headline was misleading.

“In the wake of this article George Monbiot responded with a blog which declared “your priorities seem odd” and asked if I had changed National Trust policy on fracking and wind turbines without informing members. I haven’t. Your assumption from the Times article that I am “anti-wind and pro-fracking” is mistaken.

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