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How the Aristocracy Preserved Their Power, by Chris Bryant (source: The Guardian)

How the aristocracy preserved their power

After democracy finally shunted aside hereditary lords, they found new means to protect their extravagant riches. For all the modern tales of noble poverty and leaking ancestral homes, their private wealth and influence remain phenomenal
by Chris Bryant
7th Sept 2017
The Guardian
Ref: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/sep/07/how-the-aristocracy-preserved-their-power
On 11 January this year, Charlie, the genial 3rd Baron Lyell, died aged 77 in Dundee after a short illness. He had inherited his title and the 10,000-acre Kinnordy estate, in Angus, when he was just four years old. After Eton, Christ Church and the Scots Guards, he spent nearly 47 years in the Lords, serving as a Conservative minister from 1979 to 1989. He never married and his title died with him, but under the byzantine rules drawn up when the majority of hereditary peers were excluded from the Lords in 1999, his seat was contested in a byelection in which 27 hereditary peers stood.

In the short statement required of them, most of the candidates emphasized their career and credentials, but Hugh Crossley, the 45-year-old 4th Baron Somerleyton, went straight for the ideological jugular: “I think the hereditary peerage worth preserving and its principle creates a sense of innate commitment to the welfare of the nation,” he wrote.

It is not difficult to understand why Crossley would think that way. He was born in, owns, lives in and runs Somerleyton Hall near Lowestoft, Suffolk, which was bought by his carpet-manufacturer ancestor Sir Francis Crossley in 1863. It is palatial, with elaborate Italianate features, a maze, an aviary, a pergola 300ft long, a marina, a 12-acre garden and a 5,000-acre estate. His own publicity material claims that “a trip to Somerleyton is an experience of historical opulence”. Of course he believes in the hereditary principle and his own entitlement.

For most of the 20th century, the aristocracy showed itself remarkably indifferent to the welfare of the nation, if attendance in the upper house is any indication. Debates in the Lords were cursory and poorly attended. Peers had a short week – rarely sitting on a Monday or Friday – and short days, starting at 3.45pm or 4.15pm. During the second world war, there were rarely more than two dozen peers in attendance, and in the postwar years the trend was accentuated. The tedious business of daily attendance no longer interested their lordships, but when their personal interest was at stake or their hackles were raised, they would turn up in force. This became evident in 1956 when the Commons carried a private member’s bill to abolish the death penalty and the Lords voted it down by a resounding 238 votes to 95.

Today, of course, we are accustomed to thinking of Britain’s aristocracy as a quaint historical curiosity. Under Tony Blair’s first government, most hereditary peers were removed from the Lords. Some might think this a fall from grace, but the very fact that 92 hereditaries were to remain (a larger number than had attended most debates over the previous eight decades) was a victory that proved their enduring strength. They had not just delayed but prevented democratic reform of the Lords, and they had entrenched their reactionary presence.
By the 1990s, politics had become a minority interest for the aristocracy, yet for those who chose to exercise their parliamentary rights, the Lords gave them safe passage into government. John Major appointed a string of hereditary peers to his government. The leader of the House of Lords was Viscount Cranborne, heir to the 6th Marquess of Salisbury, and among the ministers were seven earls, four viscounts and five hereditary barons. Even the administration formed by Theresa May in June 2017 included one earl, one viscount and three hereditary barons.

Behind the beauty of the British aristocracy’s stately homes and the sometimes romantic and eventful lives they led, lies a darker story: a legacy of theft, violence and unrepentant greed.

Historically, the British aristocracy’s defining feature was not a noble aspiration to serve the common weal but a desperate desire for self-advancement. They stole land under the pretence of piety in the early middle ages, they seized it by conquest, they expropriated it from the monasteries and they enclosed it for their private use under the pretence of efficiency. They grasped wealth, corruptly carved out their niche at the pinnacle of society and held on to it with a vice-like grip. They endlessly reinforced their own status and enforced deference on others through ostentatiously exorbitant expenditure on palaces, clothing and jewellery. They laid down a strict set of rules for the rest of society, but lived by a different standard.

Such was their sense of entitlement that they believed – and persuaded others to believe – that a hierarchical society with them placed firmly and unassailably at the top was the natural order of things. Even to suggest otherwise, they implied, was to shake the foundations of morality.

They were shocked and angered when others sought to deprive or degrade them. They clung tenaciously to their position. They developed ever more specious arguments to defend their privileges. They eulogised themselves and built great temples to their greatness. They jealously guarded access to their hallowed halls. And when democracy finally and rudely shunted them aside, they found new means of preserving their extravagant riches without the tedium of pretending they sought the common interest. Far from dying away, they remain very much alive.

For all the tales of noble poverty and leaking ancestral homes, the private wealth of Britain’s aristocracy remains phenomenal. According to a 2010 report for Country Life, a third of Britain’s land still belongs to the aristocracy.

Notwithstanding the extinction of some titles and the sales of land early in the 20th century, the lists of major aristocratic landowners in 1872 and in 2001 remain remarkably similar. Some of the oldest families have survived in the rudest financial health. In one analysis, the aristocratic descendants of the Plantagenet kings were worth £4bn in 2001, owning 700,000 acres, and 42 of them were members of the Lords up to 1999, including the dukes of Northumberland, Bedford, Beaufort and Norfolk.

The figures for Scotland are even more striking. Nearly half the land is in the hands of 432 private individuals and companies. More than a quarter of all Scottish estates of more than 5,000 acres are held by a list of aristocratic families. In total they hold some 2.24m acres, largely in the Lowlands.
Many noble landholdings are among the most prestigious and valuable in the world. In addition to his 96,000-acre Reay Forest, the 23,500-acre Abbeystead estate in Lancashire and the 11,500-acre Eaton estate in Cheshire, the Duke of Westminster owns large chunks of Mayfair and Belgravia in London. Earl Cadogan owns parts of Cadogan Square, Sloane Street and the Kings Road, the Marquess of Northampton owns 260 acres in Clerkenwell and Canonbury, and the Baroness Howard de Walden holds most of Harley Street and Marylebone High Street. These holdings attract some of the highest rental values in the world. Little has changed since 1925, when the journalist WB Northrop published a postcard portraying the octopus of “landlordism” with its tentacles spread across London, charging the aristocracy with pauperising the peasantry, paralysing the building trade and sucking the lifeblood of the people.
One legal provision unique to England and Wales has been of particular importance to these aristocratic landlords: over the centuries they built many millions of houses, mansion blocks and flats, which they sold on a leasehold rather than freehold basis. This meant that purchasers are not buying the property outright, but merely a time-limited interest in it, so even the “owners” of multimillion-pound residences have to pay ground rent to the owner of the freehold, to whom the property reverts when their leases (which in some areas of central London are for no more than 35 years) run out. This is unearned income par excellence.

Built property aside, land ownership itself is still the source of exorbitant wealth, as agricultural land has increased in value. According to the 2016 Sunday Times Rich List, 30 peers are each worth £100m or more.

Many aspects of those peers’ lives have barely changed over the centuries. Edward William Fitzalan-Howard, the 18th Duke of Norfolk, is still the premier duke of England, as well as being the Earl Marshal, the Hereditary Marshal of England, a member of the Lords and the holder of nine other titles. His landholdings are obscure, but, as he (under-)stated in his maiden (and only) speech in the Lords: “I farm in West Sussex and own moorland in North Yorkshire”, and he still lives at Arundel Castle. Many of those who have ceded their homes to the National Trust or to a charitable trust of their own devising (with all the concomitant tax advantages) still occupy their ancestral pads, with the added benefit of modern plumbing and wiring. The Dowager Countess of Cawdor still lives in her son’s castle thanks to a tax exemption, the Marquess of Curzon still lives and shoots at Kedleston, Derbyshire, thanks to the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF), and the Duke of Marlborough still dines in the saloon at Blenheim, which charges a £24.90-a-head entry fee for visitors.

The country-house business is in fine fettle. True, the owners of lesser homes face significant challenges and a few peers have decided to downsize. In 2005 Lord Hesketh sold Easton Neston – designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor – in Northamptonshire (but kept Towcester racecourse). The 7th marquess of Bute offered Dumfries House to the National Trust for Scotland, and when they refused it Prince Charles stepped in with a consortium that found £45m to purchase the house and its contents in 2007, and endow it for the future. (It got £7 million from the NHMF.)

Grand homes such as Chatsworth, Woburn and Longleat attract many thousands of visitors, while the stately homes that survived in private hands up until 1960 are virtually all still in the same private hands today, and many peers continue their annual peregrination from one well-appointed palace to another. The Buccleuchs, for instance, have the rose-coloured sandstone palace of Drumlanrig, in Dumfries and Galloway, as their main home, but they spend winter months at the much-enlarged hunting lodge, Bowhill, in the Borders, and at Boughton in Northamptonshire, an 11,000-acre estate that includes five villages and a stately home that hosts artworks by Van Dyck, El Greco and Gainsborough. When the previous duke made this journey, he would be accompanied by Leonardo da Vinci’s Madonna of the Yarnwinder – the only Leonardo in private hands – until it was stolen in 2003.

Habits and obsessions have barely changed. Of today’s 24 non-royal dukes, half went to Eton. Twenty-first-century aristocrats still belong to the same clubs their ancestors frequented: Brooks’s, Boodle’s, Pratt’s and White’s. Like Nancy Mitford in 1955, they entertain themselves distinguishing between U terms, as used by the upper classes (“napkins”, “false teeth”, “spectacles” and “vegetables”), and Non-U, or middle-class, ones (“serviettes”, “dentures”, “glasses” and “greens”). They play polo and love guns, horses and hounds. The 12th Duke of Devonshire has been the queen’s representative at Ascot, senior steward of the Jockey Club and a prominent buyer and seller of fine art (in 2012 he sold a Raphael for £29.7m). The 10th Duke of Beaufort was master of his eponymous hunt for 60 years and the hunt still meets regularly at Badminton, Gloucestershire. Emma, Duchess of Rutland, hostess of the Belvoir hunt and countless shooting parties, is so committed to making shooting a central attraction at Belvoir that she toured all the best shoots in the land and published her rhapsody to hunting in Shooting: A Season of Discovery.

How have the aristocracy achieved such a remarkable recovery of their fortunes? First, in common with their ancestors, they have systematically, repeatedly and successfully sought to avoid tax. The 18th-century satirist Charles Churchill wrote words that might have been the common motto of the aristocracy:

What is’t to us, if taxes rise or fall,
Thanks to our fortune, we pay none at all.

Thus, when the 2nd Duke of Westminster deliberately paid his gardeners in a way that obviated any tax liability and was challenged in court, the judge, Lord Tomlin, ruled in 1936 that: “Every man is entitled, if he can, to order his affairs so that the tax attracted under the appropriate act is less than it otherwise would be. If he succeeds in ordering them so as to secure this result, then, however unappreciative the commissioners of Inland Revenue or his fellow taxpayers may be of his ingenuity, he cannot be compelled to pay an increased tax.”

His fellow peers took this principle to heart. William and Edmund Vestey, the meat-packing businessmen who in 1922 bought themselves a peerage and a baronetcy from the prime minister, David Lloyd George, for £20,000, regularly begged to be excused income tax, went into tax exile in Argentina and settled their finances in a trust based in Paris, whose accounts were filed in Uruguay that saved the family £88m in tax. In 1980, Samuel, the 3rd Baron Vestey, and his cousin, Edmund, were found to have paid just £10 in tax on the family business’s £2.3m profit. When they were challenged, Edmund shrugged his shoulders and said: “Let’s face it. Nobody pays more tax than they have to. We’re all tax dodgers, aren’t we?”

When the trustees of Castle Howard, a stately home in North Yorkshire, sold Joshua Reynolds’s painting Omai for £9.4m to pay for its aristocratic occupant Simon Howard’s divorce in 2001, they argued they should not have to pay capital gains tax on it as it was part of the fabric of the castle, and therefore a “wasting asset”, which was exempt. Extraordinarily, in 2014 the Court of Appeal agreed. This tax loophole was closed in the 2015 budget.

The primary means of squirrelling away substantial assets so as to preserve them intact and deliver a healthy income for aristocratic descendants without bothering the taxman is the trust. Countless peers with major landholdings and stately homes have put all their assets into discretionary trusts, thereby evading both public scrutiny and inheritance tax. This is the case with the Duke of Westminster’s Grosvenor estates, whose trustees, chaired by the duke, dole out benefits and payments to members of the family while keeping the assets separate from any individual’s estate. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs is entitled to a percentage of the value of the trust fund every 10th anniversary of its creation, but after exemptions for farms and businesses have been taken into consideration, the Revenue is left virtually empty-handed.
Income is subject to tax, but the patrimonial asset remains intact. In 1995, the 9th Duke of Buccleuch complained that the Sunday Times Rich List had overestimated his worth at £200m, as he owned “no shares in Buccleuch Estates Ltd”. Legally, he was quite correct. Despite being a parent company for a string of valuable joint ventures and property holdings, the company is vested in four Edinburgh shareholder lawyers at a total value of £4. Since today’s directors are the 10th duke, the duchess, their heir, the Earl of Dalkeith, and the duke’s two brothers, John and Damian, it is difficult not to conclude that the Buccleuchs are in reality the beneficial owners.

Dozens of the old nobility have done the same, meaning that the family trust can quietly provide a house, an income, a lifestyle (and, if required, a divorce settlement) to any number of beneficiaries without fearing inheritance tax or the prying eyes of the public.

Aristocrats may not like paying tax, but they don’t object to taking handouts from the taxpayer. The landed aristocracy has benefited to an extraordinary degree from payments under the EU’s common agricultural policy. The figures are staggering. At least one in five of the UK’s top 100 single-payment recipients in 2015/16 was aristocratic.

The richest have carried off the most. The Duke of Westminster’s Grosvenor Farms estate received £913,517, the Duke of Northumberland’s Percy Farms took £1,010,672, the Duke of Marlborough’s Blenheim Farms got £823,055 and Lord Rothschild’s Waddesdon estates received £708,919. This is all in a single year. Multiplied across the years, the payments from the EU have benefited the British aristocracy to the tune of many millions of pounds.

Exploiting the system is second nature to the landowning class. The 11th Duke and Duchess of Beaufort, the owners of Badminton House, have benefited handsomely from their property rights. Their company, Swangrove Estates Ltd, whose directors are the duke and duchess; their son, the Marquess of Worcester; and grandson, the Earl of Glamorgan, received £456,810 from the CAP in 2014/15, and in 2009 it was discovered that the duke had exercised his ancestral rights over the riverbed in Swansea by charging the council £281,431 to build a bridge across the river from a shopping centre to Swansea FC’s Liberty Stadium. With the help of the taxpayer – and no little ingenuity of his own – the duke has secured a fortune reckoned to be about £135m.

The EU is not their only source of financial assistance. Charles Chetwynd-Talbot, 22nd Earl of Shrewsbury, who lives at the 17th-century manor house of Wanfield Hall in Shropshire and is president of the Gun Trade Association, has auctioned off a number of feudal titles, including that of High Steward of Ireland, a practice that has helped keep several other peers in the style to which their families had become accustomed. In April 2015, the earl put the lordship of Whitchurch up for sale; in 1996 Earl Spencer sold the lordship of the manor of Wimbledon for $250,000; and at the time of writing Manorial Auctioneers Ltd claim to be auctioning lordships of the manor, a seignory in Jersey and a feudal barony in Ireland on the instructions of “members of the aristocracy”.

Attendance in the House of Lords brings in an income, too, although peers are keen to state that it is not a salary. When life peerages were introduced in 1958, the Marquess of Salisbury was quick to point out the three guineas a day they were paid did not represent “any additional remuneration; it is merely repayment for expenditure which has already been incurred by noble lords in the performance of their duties”. So too, today peers may claim £300 a day if the Lords records show that they attended a sitting of the house, or £150 a day if they undertook qualifying work away from Westminster.
In March 2016, when the Lords sat for 15 days, 16 earls were paid £52,650 between them in tax-free attendance allowance, plus travel costs, and 13 viscounts received £43,050. The Duke of Somerset claimed £3,600, and the Duke of Montrose was paid £2,750 plus £1,570 in travel costs: £76 for the use of his car, £258 for train tickets, £1,087 for air tickets and £149 for taxis and parking costs. The duke spoke in debate or in grand committee just twice in the whole parliamentary session, and not at all that March.

The secret to the survival of the old aristocracy through the centuries was the mystique of grandeur they cultivated. They dressed, decorated and built to impress, so that nobody dared question their right to rule. The secret of their modern existence is their sheer invisibility. As the Daily Mail commented when Tatler magazine gathered a table of 10 dukes together in 2009: “Once, the holders of these titles would have been the A-list celebrities of their time. Today, most people would be pushed to name a single one of them.”

That is no accident. British laws on land tenure, inheritance tax, corporate governance and discretionary trusts still make it easy to hide wealth from public view. Land is subsidised, and taxed more lightly than residential property. Unearned income bears less of a burden than earned income. All this quietly underpins the continued power of the aristocracy, wrapped in the old aura of entitlement, counting its blessings and hoping that nobody notices.

Curiously enough, Nancy Mitford, that sceptical daughter of the preposterously rightwing 2nd Baron Redesdale, was probably right: “It may well be that he who, for a thousand years has weathered so many a storm, religious, dynastic and political, is taking cover in order to weather yet one more.”

Entitled: “A Critical History of the British Aristocracy”, by Chris Bryant is published today by Doubleday, priced £25. To order a copy for £21.25, go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99

UK Housing Crisis Can Be Solved by Rich Land Owners

https://c-r-l.com/news/uk-housing-crisis-can-be-solved-if-the-rich-release-land/

January 6, 2016 by CRL Management

The richest landowners in England are being asked to help alleviate the national housing crisis by making land available for building new homes.

According to a recent recommendation from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), those who own 5,000 of England’s largest country estate are in a position to create economic growth, employment, and housing in areas of the country where the population is declining. RICS is lobbying the government to launch more schemes to support building new homes on unused land.

At present there is a shortfall of 76% in rural housing, which is compelling people to leave country communities and driving up house prices to such an extent that homes are unaffordable.

The call went out as recent figures revealed that in December, house prices in the UK grew at their most rapid rate in eight months. This happened amid warnings that a deficit of new homes could drive price growth even higher.

Data compiled by Nationwide revealed that prices went up by an average of 0.8% in December, in increase from the 0.1% growth experienced in November.

Sir Peter Erskine, who has constructed 22 affordable properties on his family estate in the East of Fife, Scotland, commented that large estates represent a solution to dwindling population levels in rural communities.

The area near the Cambo estate lost a post office and grocery shop in recent times, and the local school is facing a dearth of pupils.

Sir Peter said that he cared about the well-being of the community, and as major stakeholders, landowners can do a lot of good.

150 staff are employed at the Cambo estate during the peak season, but he warned that if affordable housing is not available, the area’s slow decline can’t be halted.

Jeremy Blackburn, RICs’ head of policy, said that small quantities of affordable housing can make rural communities more viable. He added that the rural housing crisis could be solved if only 10 homes were built in each of the 1,600 small towns in rural England.

He pointed out that the issue was not so much about central government providing fiscal incentives to landowners to encourage building new homes, although it would be helpful. It was about encouraging landed estates and local authorities to work together to build homes, establishing affordable options for both young and old homeowners, especially tenanted farmers who will need somewhere to retire.

Sir Peter said that the TV programme Downton Abbey’s Christmas special showed that country estates were once the centre of social and economic activities in rural areas. He claimed that landowners across the country are willing to assist in bringing about positive social change, but high taxes and hostile political attitudes held them back.

Over the years, he said, there has been a hostile political atmosphere and a punitive tax system was in place until recently.

“We are now in an era where people will once again appreciate the value of these estates and what they can do for the community.”

Simple homes in the British countryside that need protecting

2017: Kate and Alan’s Burrows aka Mud Hut Woman, give a heartfelt account of what life is truly like for them trying to live in a Devon roundhouse they built on their own land – the council want to knock it down

Their application for retrospective planning permission has been refused and they have been ordered to remove their dwelling and vacate the land by December 2017.

Petition https://www.change.org/p/north-devon-district-council-save-the-round-house-in-the-woods

​Man builds mud hut in Watford forest


North Devon Council: Save The Round House In The Woods

https://www.change.org/p/north-devon-district-council-save-the-round-house-in-the-woods
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Petitioning North Devon District Council

Save The Round House In The Woods

Dinah Mason

Willand, United Kingdom

18,230

Supporters

Kate and Alan have built a beautiful home on the land they own from materials gathered from the land. Their application for retrospective planning permission has been refused and they have been ordered to remove their dwelling and vacate the land by December 2017.

Kate suffers from multiple chemical sensitivity and since living in the round house her health has greatly improved, having to move back into conventional accommodation will be seriously detrimental to her health and well being. 

They are lobbying the council and anyone who will listen for the One Planet Development scheme that is currently used in Wales and the low impact policy that has just been introduced in Dartmoor national park to be rolled out nation wide. Currently there is no provision in England for true sustainable development of this nature and this needs to change.

A short film about their project made by James Light can be found here

This petition will be delivered to:

North Devon District Council

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Dinah Mason started this petition with a single signature, and now has 18,230 supporters. Start a petition today to change something you care about.

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Save The Round House In The Woods

Kate and Alan will be live from the roundhouse on Monday morning on ITV’s This Morning

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Dinah Mason started this petition

Reasons for Signing

Low impact dwellings on land owned by the individual should be welcomed with open arms by an overstretched council. Homes like this should be encouraged not blocked at every turn.
siddy langley, Plymtree, United Kingdom1 Mar 2017

The argument that “it’s not in the public interest to have dwellings popping up all over the countryside” is blatant nonsense. 
Frankly most people prefer modern houses with heating and, petsonally, I’d prefer a scattering of such dwellings to the huge estates big business covers whole acres with.
Mary McCarthy, Gloucester, United Kingdom1 Mar 2017

52

This is natural. They own their land and have built their own home, I don’t see the problem. Maybe if they weren’t putting it all to good use I would feel differently but they aren’t harming anyone in any way shape or form.
Sophie Edwards, Plymouth, United Kingdom 1 Mar 2017

100s of leasehold National Trust tenants told they face ground rent increases of up to 10,000%

Draconian new rules ban almost all forms of (legal) trail hunting

  • Ground rent increases of up to 10,000%
  • Draconian rules govern trail-hunting across all the National Trust’s property
  • Measures appeared on charity’s website on Tuesday this week without warning
  • According to the country sports lobby, they will render almost all trail hunting — a perfectly legal pursuit — impossible on Trust land 

Roger Westmoreland's wife, Doreen, grew up raising sheep and cattle on a farm leased from Beatrix Potter (pictured) who lived near by and once employed her uncle Bill as a shepherd

Roger Westmoreland’s wife, Doreen, grew up raising sheep and cattle on a farm leased from Beatrix Potter (pictured) who lived near by and once employed her uncle Bill as a shepherd

For more than a century, Roger Westmoreland and his ancestors have carved a living from the Troutbeck Valley, where drystone walls criss-cross the purple fells in a breathtaking part of the Lake District.

The 78-year-old hill farmer’s wife, Doreen, grew up raising sheep and cattle on a farm leased from Beatrix Potter, who lived near by and once employed her uncle Bill as a shepherd.

When the author died in 1943, she left much of the valley to the National Trust. Today, the charity leases roughly 300 acres of Troutbeck to Roger’s daughter, Helen.

Upland life is tough, with three generations, including Helen’s children, working side by side 365 days a year to keep the farm going. But while the financial returns are modest, their existence has its own rewards.

One has traditionally come every weekend from September until April, when they join dozens of neighbours following the Coniston Foxhounds, who have hunted the land since the early 1800s.

After the Blair government banned hunting in 2005, the pack continued to operate legally, pursuing an artificial trail created by dragging a rag soaked in fox’s urine. Like all members, the Westmorelands followed on foot.

But this year, the Coniston Foxhounds are unlikely to be visiting Troutbeck Valley. In fact, they may struggle to operate at all.

To blame are a set of draconian new rules governing trail-hunting across all the National Trust’s roughly 2,500 square miles of England and Wales, including almost all the Coniston’s territory.

The measures appeared on the charity’s website on Tuesday this week without warning, to the unbridled delight of animal rights activists.

According to the country sports lobby, they will render almost all trail hunting — a perfectly legal pursuit — impossible on Trust land.

‘These rules represent a betrayal, simple as that,’ is how Roger Westmoreland puts it. ‘They are a betrayal of everything the National Trust is supposed to stand for.

‘They show it doesn’t understand the countryside, doesn’t understand farming and couldn’t care less about rural people and their traditions. They are trying to impose their petty urban values. It’s an outrage.’

Mr Westmoreland also believes the new rules represent an affront to Beatrix Potter.

For the creator of Mr Tod the fox was a keen follower of the Coniston (and a supporter of foxhunting) who stipulated in her will that the National Trust must always allow hunting to continue on her estates.

A set of draconian new rules govern trail-hunting across all the National Trust's roughly 2,500 square miles of England and Wales (stock photo)

A set of draconian new rules govern trail-hunting across all the National Trust’s roughly 2,500 square miles of England and Wales (stock photo)

‘My family and my wife’s family, the Hudsons, have been in this valley for over 100 years. So has the hunt,’ says Mr Westmoreland.

‘It’s a community thing which binds people together. Beatrix Potter knew that, and that’s why she protected it in her will. She would be horrified at what has happened this week.’

And the Westmorelands are not the only National Trust tenants outraged by what they see as its attack on their heritage.

A group of their Cumbrian peers this week sent a forthright letter to the Trust expressing shock and concern at the ‘completely inappropriate’ new policy.

The angry document accuses the charity of having shown ‘no duty of care whatsoever’ to its tenants and their families.

It argues that one particular new rule, according to which the Trust will publish online details of all farming tenants who allow trail-hunting on their land, will expose them to serious threats from animal rights extremists.

Written on Tuesday, just hours after the new hunting regulations were quietly added to the Trust’s website, the letter complains: ‘No one from the NT at a local or national level has been in contact with us to discuss such changes and the possible impact on us, our families and the local community.’

The letter originally attracted 36 signatories but by last night scores more Lake District tenants were understood to have pledged support for it.

Each of the farmers (who between them lease tens of thousands of acres) has threatened that, if the Trust does not reverse its new measures, they will deliberately flout them.

‘As far as we are concerned, as long as they continue to operate within the law, our local hunts will continue to be welcome on our farms,’ they say.

All of which leaves one of Britain’s largest charities on the brink of open warfare — against the very people who manage its most precious asset.

It is an extraordinary state of affairs that raises serious questions about the competence, judgment and integrity of the lofty collection of quangocrats and careerists who run the charity.

Yet at this once-loved bastion of British heritage — which, with five million members, is Britain’s biggest membership organisation after the AA — the latest self-inflicted crisis follows a depressingly familiar pattern.

Barely a month seems to go by without the Trust’s metropolitan rulers managing to engineer another PR disaster.

Yesterday it was reported in The Times that the NT stands accused of profiteering after hundreds of leasehold tenants were told they face ground rent increases of up to 10,000 per cent.

Dame Helen Ghosh, pictured, who earns around £185,000 a year, was responsible for the decision this year to remove the word 'Easter' from egg hunts at several National Trust properties, rebranding them 'Cadbury's Egg Hunts' as part of a lucrative sponsorship deal

Dame Helen Ghosh, pictured, who earns around £185,000 a year, was responsible for the decision this year to remove the word ‘Easter’ from egg hunts at several National Trust properties, rebranding them ‘Cadbury’s Egg Hunts’ as part of a lucrative sponsorship deal

And only a few weeks ago, dozens of unpaid guides at Felbrigg Hall in Norfolk staged a revolt after being ordered to wear rainbow-coloured lanyards and badges to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the legalisation of homosexuality.

Their objection was compounded by a decision to ‘out’ Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer, an intensely private poet and historian who donated the 17th-century property to the Trust after his death in 1969.

His alleged homosexuality was detailed in a five-minute film played to visitors and narrated by Stephen Fry.

Mutiny was averted only after Dame Helen Ghosh, the Trust’s Left-wing chief executive, agreed to make the wearing of lanyards (introduced as part of a trendy nationwide campaign called ‘Prejudice and Pride’) voluntary.

Ghosh, who earns around £185,000 a year, was also responsible for the decision this year to remove the word ‘Easter’ from egg hunts at several National Trust properties, rebranding them ‘Cadbury’s Egg Hunts’ as part of a lucrative sponsorship deal.

That sparked criticism not just from religious leaders but from Theresa May, who declared: ‘What the National Trust is doing is, frankly, ridiculous.’

A former civil servant whose career blossomed under New Labour, Dame Helen was appointed to replace Dame Fiona Reynolds (who previously ran the Cabinet Office’s women’s unit) in 2012.

Since then, she has managed to upset the Trust’s traditionalists regularly, presiding over a culture of endless modernisation in which Blairite values are sacrosanct.

Under her stewardship, opponents say, properties have simultaneously dumbed down and commercialised.

Believing that there is ‘so much stuff’ in old houses, Dame Helen once chose to replace antique furniture with bean-bags at Ickworth House in Suffolk.

On another occasion she declared wind farms beautiful and described global warming as ‘the single largest threat to our conservation work’. Lately, her Trust has been making stark pronouncements about Brexit.

This approach has over the years met with short shrift from many of the Trust’s 60,000 volunteers, who manage its 350 properties. But it delights the liberal Establishment and has done wonders for Dame Helen’s career prospects.

Next year, she will duly move to a new job as Master of Balliol College in Oxford, the city where she lives with husband Peter, an academic.

The search for a suitably PC replacement is under way. Meanwhile, her legacy was artfully summed up at the weekend by Sir Roy Strong, former director of the V&A museum, who called the Trust’s leadership ‘the Blair government in exile’ — a ‘Left-leaning’ cabal obsessed with ‘ticking the boxes of the disabled, the aged, LGBT and ethnic communities and the rest of it’.

This culture, now prevalent in so many of our institutions, is, of course, at the centre of this week’s events in Cumbria.

For years, tenant farmers have been growing weary of National Trust directives on everything from carbon emissions and the planting of trees to ‘sustainability’.

They complain that Trust employees, traditionally drawn from local farming families, are increasingly urban careerists with little understanding of their lives and heritage.

‘They are politically correct idiots and Dame Helen, in particular, is a disaster,’ says Robin Page, a former member of the Trust’s governing council who now runs the Countryside Restoration Trust.

‘The Trust has lost touch with its tenants. It has completely lost their confidence,’ says Lake District farmer Peter Allen, who can trace his family’s history in the Lowther Valley back 17 generations and sits on the National Park’s board. ‘But that’s what will happen when urban people try to dictate what happens in the countryside.’

So this week’s kerfuffle over trail-hunting hit a raw nerve. It began in early February, when the Trust’s 12-member board met to discuss criticism it was receiving from the animal rights lobby via social media.

Not one hunt has been successfully prosecuted for illegal activity on Trust land since the 2005 ban. However, anti-field sports activists believe hounds following artificial trails sometimes divert to real ones, killing wild animals in the process.

No laws are broken during such incidents (the deaths are regarded as accidental), so the wealthy charity’s Board of Trustees would traditionally have shrugged its shoulders.

For generations the powerful body was. after all, dominated by aristocrats, architectural historians and museum curators. Indeed, a decade ago its ranks contained no fewer than four Eton-educated landowners, along with a farmer.

‘While they might have been a stuffy lot who didn’t tick many diversity boxes, they knew about land management and understood about stately homes and estates, and protecting their heritage,’ is how one former member puts it.

Today, however, the Board has a very different flavour.

Its chairman is Tim Parker, a private equity tycoon dubbed ‘the prince of darkness’ in the City for his willingness to preside over mass redundancies.

His deputy, Orna Ni Chionna, is the wife of Adair Turner, the crossbench peer and former CBI chief who campaigns against a ‘hard Brexit’. Other prominent members are Gus Casely-Hayford, a TV historian, and Sandy Nairne, former director of the National Portrait Gallery.

The remaining members are largely academics and business people. Most live in London. The only old-school landowner in their ranks — David Fursdon — turns out to be a university friend and former flatmate of Tony Blair.

Little wonder, perhaps, that this metropolitan group decided in February to order a ‘review’ of the rules by which the NT allows legal trail-hunts on its land.

And maybe it’s no surprise that although their work spanned a six-month period, the authors did not once speak with tenant farmers or their representatives, or consult with anyone in the hunting community.

The only interested organisation the Trust did allow through its doors during the review was the League Against Cruel Sports. Its chief executive, Eduardo Goncalves, was invited to the Trust’s London office on March 1.

According to a PR statement issued by the League, he used the meeting to ‘share grave concerns’ about the manner in which the Trust ‘currently issues licences to a number of hunts to conduct trail hunts on its estates’.

The Trust, which ‘refutes in the strongest terms any accusation of bias’ on the issue of hunting, claims otherwise, however, insisting that its March 1 discussion with Britain’s most prominent anti-hunting activist was ‘nothing to do’ with the review of trail-hunting.

We must take them at their word. But Mr Goncalves will nonetheless be delighted at the six new rules the Trust announced this week. For these not only impose bureaucracy on trail-hunts but are likely to render them unsustainable.

One reason for this is that in future the charity will only permit hounds to follow an artificial scent, such as aniseed, rather than the animal-based products that are used at present.

The Trust claims this will ‘reduce the risk of foxes or other wild animals being accidentally chased’.

However, it is unable to cite a single piece of scientific research to support this hypothesis (and many tenants believe the exact opposite will be true).

Moreover, as all existing hunts operating on Trust land have bred hounds to follow animal-based scent, they will need to completely re-breed and re-train whole packs, a process that may take years.

Another new Trust rule will require hunts to post details of the times and exact locations of forthcoming meetings in advance, on the National Trust’s website.

The charity says this will provide ‘transparency’. But tenants take a different view, fearing it will lead to violent hunt saboteurs holding regular demonstrations on their land, and allow animal rights extremists from across the world to target their homes.

‘In the past we’ve had the odd incident where people have turned up wearing balaclavas and holding clubs and claw hammers,’ says Isaac Benson, a third-generation Trust tenant who allows hunts to meet at his hill farm in the Langdale Valley.

‘This website will give them a green light to do it every week. It will end in violence. And for farmers who host the hunts, you are opening yourself up to serious abuse on a non-stop basis, from some very nasty people. It will place tenants and their families in serious danger.’

The Trust, which traditionally conducts ‘risk assessments’ over everything from felling trees to walking on footpaths, didn’t consult with police forces about the wisdom of this policy though a spokesman says: ‘The safety of our tenants, our staff and those who take part in this activity is hugely important to us and this is why we have responded to the letter from our Lake District tenants to explore their safety concerns.

‘We’ll be listening carefully and, if necessary, seeking further advice from the police.’

The Countryside Alliance, which lobbies on behalf of field sports, says the new policy will end hunting on almost all Trust land, as ‘it will be too great a risk to farmers, staff and members to have meets advertised’.

Perhaps that is what the rules are ultimately intended to achieve.

Lake District farmer Roger Westmoreland certainly thinks as much. ‘The National Trust either doesn’t understand, or doesn’t care, what it’s doing away with,’ he says.

‘They are intolerant people with values that seem totally at odds with Beatrix Potter’s. For an organisation devoted to heritage, it’s all just so wrong.’

British property divide revealed as over five MILLION own second homes despite 250,000 homeless

British property divide revealed as over five MILLION own second homes despite 250,000 homeless

Second home ownership has rocketed by 30% in just over a decade, with one in 10 adults now having another property in addition to their main home

New homes are constructed on a new housing estate
Five million people own second homes in the UK

More than five million people own second homes, a report reveals today – but 250,000 are estimated to be homeless.

Second home ownership has rocketed by 30% in just over a decade, with one in 10 adults now having another property in addition to their main home.

An extra 1.6 million people scooped up an extra base, taking the total to 5.2 million, according to the Resolution Foundation think tank.

The finding highlights a deepening divide in property ownership; figures last year from housing charity Shelter estimated 254,000 people were living in temporary accommodation, with the housing crisis set to mount as population growth outpaces housebuilding.

Housing charity Shelter estimate 254,000 people are living in temporary accommodation

Resolution Foundation senior policy analyst Laura Gardiner said: “With young people much less likely to own a home at all than their predecessors at the same age, the growing concentration of property wealth among fewer families raises concerns not just for their living standards but for wealth inequality of our country as a whole.

“Recent steps to increase stamp duty on second homes and reduce tax relief on buy-to-let mortgage are attempts to address this challenge, but policy makers should consider what more can be done to ensure that home ownership doesn’t become the preserve of the wealthy for generations to come.”

The figures highlight the growing wealth inequality in Britain (Image: Getty)

The report highlighted a generational split, with baby boomers aged 52 to 71 the most likely to be multiple home owners, accounting for more than half (52%) of all the wealth held in additional properties.

Generation X, made up of 37 to 51-year-olds, accounts for a further quarter (25%) of additional property wealth.

But “millennials” – those born since 1981 – own just 3% of the additional property assets, the research found.

New homes are constructed on a new housing estate
Baby boomers aged 52 to 71 are the most likely to be multiple home owners 

Ms Gardiner said: “Multiple property ownership is still a minority sport, but a growing one that represents a significant boost to the wealth pots of those lucky enough to own second homes.

“People with second homes not only have an investment that they can turn to in times of need, for instance in later life when care is required, but if the property is rented out they also see a boost to their incomes here and now.”

The findings were drawn from a range of figures, including Office for National Statistics data.

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Sale of Peak District National Park woodlands, a sign of growing “privatisation” of countryside, campaigners say

National Park in privatisation row as it sells woodlands

Dean Kirby – Thursday August 17th 2017

HATHERSAGE, UNITED KINGDOM – SEPTEMBER 09: Heather glows after sunset in Millstone Quarry in the Peak District on September 09, 2014 in Hathersage, United Kingdom. Much of the UK continues to enjoy mild Autumn weather with sunshine set to last for the next few days. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Campaigners have hit out at Britains oldest national park and the birthplace of the fight for countryside access for selling off woodlands to the highest bidder. The Peak District National Park was formed in 1951 and nearly two decades earlier was the scene of the Kinder Scout trespass, where ramblers fought with gamekeepers in the first battle for the right to roam. Now the park authority, which manages more than 100 woodlands covering 417 hectares, has sold off 14 woodlands and is currently in the process of selling six more. It says anyone can buy the woods including members of the public and community groups and any access rights will remain. But campaigners have hit back saying they fear the move is a sign of a growing privatisation of the countryside.

Cat Hobbs from We Own It, which wants public services to stay in public ownership, said: These beautiful woods belong to everyone. They’re a public asset we can all be proud of and enjoy. Selling them off for a quick buck is wrong and it could be a slippery slope. The Peak District National Park had a duty to safeguard precious public woodland for our children and grandchildren. Why is it handing over ownership to the highest bidder? The park acquired the woodlands when it was designated a national park, with the aim of securing these important landscape features and rescuing woodlands which were under threat or in need of restoration. It also took over some woodlands as part of countryside estates. The park authority says it has restored the woodlands is now returning them to the community by selling them to reduce its liabilities and make the most of our resources. It says anyone can buy the woods, from members of public to community groups and people who love trees, adding that it could be adjacent landowners, but it doesn’t have to be. Once sold they will stay as woodlands and any access rights will remain intact, the authority says.

“It is very easy to get rid of access rights”

But Tony Gosling, from land rights campaign group This Land is Ours, said: Its ludicrous that land that has been available for public use is being sold at a time when people are spending more and more of their leisure time in the countryside. Saying that the land is being given to the community is just spin. It could be bought by a foreign investor. Even if a covenant is put in place, once land becomes privately owned, it is very easy for a landowner to get rid of access rights. The six woodlands currently being sold include the 4.7-acre Flagg Moor woodland of sycamore, ash and beech trees, near Buxton, which is up for sale at 20,000. Another, Jacksons Plantation in the Peak Forest, has been sold after being tendered at the same price. A spokesman for the Peak District National Park said: There are covenants in place to ensure the woodlands are maintained to protect the wildlife and to prevent development. Money raised from the sale of the woodlands will be re-invested to look after the National Park and help people enjoy it.
Read more at: https://inews.co.uk/essentials/news/environment/national-park-privatisation-row-sells-woodlands/

Sale of Peak Park woodlands is sign of growing “privatisation” of countryside, campaigners say

Campaigners have criticised a move to sell off woodlands in the Peak District National Park
REPORTER Email Published: 12:44 Friday 18 August 2017 0 HAVE YOUR SAY
http://www.derbyshiretimes.co.uk/news/environment/sale-of-peak-park-woodlands-is-sign-of-growing-privatisation-of-countryside-campaigners-say-1-8710025
Campaigners have said the sale of woodlands in the Peak District National Park is a sign of a growing “privatisation” of the countryside. The Peak District National Park Authority has already sold off 14 woodlands, and is currently in the process of selling six more. It says anyone can buy the woods including members of the public and community groups and any access rights will remain. But campaigners have hit back saying they fear the move is a sign of a growing privatisation of the countryside. Cat Hobbs from We Own It, which wants public services to stay in public ownership, said: These beautiful woods belong to everyone. Theyre a public asset we can all be proud of and enjoy. Selling them off for a quick buck is wrong and it could be a slippery slope. The Peak District National Park had a duty to safeguard precious public woodland for our children and grandchildren. Why is it handing over ownership to the highest bidder? The park acquired the woodlands when it was designated a national park, with the aim of securing these important landscape features and rescuing woodlands which were under threat or in need of restoration. It also took over some woodlands as part of countryside estates. The park authority says it has restored the woodlands and is now returning them to the community by selling them to reduce its liabilities and make the most of our resources. It says anyone can buy the woods, from members of public to community groups and people who love trees, adding that it could be adjacent landowners, but it doesnt have to be. Once sold they will stay as woodlands and any access rights will remain intact, the authority says. It is very easy to get rid of access rights But Tony Gosling, from land rights campaign group This Land is Ours, said: Its ludicrous that land that has been available for public use is being sold at a time when people are spending more and more of their leisure time in the countryside. Saying that the land is being given to the community is just spin. It could be bought by a foreign investor. Even if a covenant is put in place, once land becomes privately owned, it is very easy for a landowner to get rid of access rights. The six woodlands currently being sold include the 4.7-acre Flagg Moor woodland of sycamore, ash and beech trees, near Buxton, which is up for sale at 20,000. Another, Jacksons Plantation in the Peak Forest, has been sold after being tendered at the same price. A spokesman for the Peak District National Park said: There are covenants in place to ensure the woodlands are maintained to protect the wildlife and to prevent development. Money raised from the sale of the woodlands will be re-invested to look after the National Park and help people enjoy it.

Read more at: http://www.derbyshiretimes.co.uk/news/environment/sale-of-peak-park-woodlands-is-sign-of-growing-privatisation-of-countryside-campaigners-say-1-8710025

Australia: New totalitarian law forces end to Sydney tent city protest

By Virginia Browne and Richard Phillips – 17 August 2017

About 60 homeless people involved in a long-running tent city protest in central Sydney’s Martin Place were forced to leave the area last Friday morning, two days after the Liberal-National state government in New South Wales (NSW) imposed repressive new laws giving police explicit powers to arrest and fine the homeless.

The protest, which began last December, sought to pressure the state government and the Sydney city council to boost crisis accommodation for the increasing numbers of homeless in the city. Known as the 24/7 Street Kitchen and Safe Space, the protest encampment was located outside the Reserve Bank of Australia and close to the state parliament.
Homeless protest in Martin Place

The state government responded with draconian legislation – the Sydney Public Reserves (Public Safety) Act – which it pushed through the parliament in just 24 hours last week, rejecting minor amendments from Labor and the Greens.

This measure will not just force the homeless out of Sydney’s central business district and city tourist locations but punish and potentially jail them. Its provisions extend far beyond the homeless, to cover any protest or other activity in a public reserve.

Not only can people be evicted, their tents and other possessions can be seized. They can be fined up to $5,500 for failing to comply, obstructing police or committing any other offence prescribed by regulations under the Act.

The legislation hands sweeping powers to a police officer to give a direction to anyone, or any group of people, if the officer believes that the people’s presence ‘interferes with the reasonable enjoyment of the rights’ of any ‘section of the public’ in a public reserve. It applies to Martin Place, or any other Sydney public reserve proclaimed by the state government.

Such directions can include an order to leave the reserve and not return for a specified period, but there is no limit on the type of direction that the police can issue. The only exemptions are for ‘authorised public assemblies’ or gatherings related to an ‘industrial dispute.’

This is the third anti-protest legislation imposed by the NSW state government during the past 18 months. Last year, extraordinary laws were introduced that can be used to shut down political protests and punish dissent. Two other Australian states also brought forward laws that criminalise protests or any other activities that are alleged to disrupt business operations.

The latest legislation was preceded by a hysterical campaign involving the state government and the media.

On August 4, NSW Family and Community Services Minister Pru Goward declared: ‘I don’t care what it takes, we will move these people on.’ NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller added: ‘They will be gone at some stage’ but this won’t be the last time we will have a problem with the mixed homeless group with a taste for protest activity.’

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore, a so-called independent backed by the Labor Party and the Greens, had said she would oppose government attempts to expel the protesters and claimed to have organised a deal for the homeless. Moore’s promise was empty posturing – the ‘deal’ did not involve any accommodation – and the state government pushed through its legislation.

Sydney City Council had previously intervened to dismantle tents and remove the belongings of homeless people camping or staying overnight in Martin Place, Wentworth Park and other inner-city areas.

In June 2016, council workers and police evicted homeless people who had been camping for six months outside the former Westpac building in Martin Place. The homeless were presented with a letter signed by director of city operations, David Riordan, deeming the camp a ‘public nuisance.’

The assault on Sydney’s homeless occurred during ‘National Homeless Week.’ The annual publicity event generally involves corporate executives and celebrities spending a night sleeping rough, which does nothing to stem the rising numbers of homeless and acute housing affordability crisis.

Across Australia, homeless shelters and crisis accommodation centres are at capacity and turning people away. Homelessness Australia chairwoman Jenny Smith said: ‘We have 280,000 [homeless people] who have been seen by our services last year, which is an increase by 43,000 on the previous year.’

Sydney, where property prices and rents have soared, particularly over the past six years, is ranked the least affordable city for housing and accommodation in Australia and one of the most unaffordable cities in the world.

Homelessness Australia in 2013, estimated that NSW had over 29,000 homeless people, the highest of any Australian state or territory. According to the latest official City of Sydney street count, in February there were 433 homeless people and 489 people in crisis or temporary accommodation centres in central Sydney alone. This was a 28 percent increase since 2011.

While criminalising homelessness, the NSW government, like its Liberal-National and Labor counterparts around Australia, is continuing to systematically run down and sell off public housing. Inner-city public housing estates, particularly those with harbour views or at other prime locations, are providing windfall profits for state governments.

A short distance from Martin Place, the government is forcing public housing tenants out of the Sirius apartment block and selling the building. Scores of affordable rental homes and apartments are also being privatised at nearby Millers Point.

There are 60,000 people on the waiting list for public housing in NSW and almost 200,000 nationally. Only a handful of these people will ever secure the accommodation they seek. At the same time, financial speculation in Australia’s housing property bubble has produced hundreds of thousands of unoccupied homes and apartments across the country.

Organisers of the Martin Place tent city claimed the protest would ‘shine a light’ on homelessness and pressure the state government to increase the number of crisis accommodation places. Confronted with the new laws, protest leaders directed the participants to pull down their tents and vacate Martin Place. According to protest organisers, at least 20 percent of those from the tent city are still ‘sleeping rough’ in other inner-city streets.

WSWS reporters spoke with tent residents and volunteers last Friday before the protest was shut down. They explained that any accommodation offered by charities was only short-term – usually no more than a couple of nights in a hotel.

Nigel lived in the Martin Place tent city for about six months. He previously worked in advertising but went through a divorce in Hong Kong, resulting in his deportation to Australia. He had to leave his 10-year-old son in Hong Kong. A downward spiral of depression and isolation began when he returned to Australia.

‘Living here has taken me out of isolation, made me interact with people and given me confidence. Lanz [Priestly, the protest organiser] has got me working in the kitchen and around the community generally – When we have to move we’ve got to stick together. We have to keep this community together and move together somewhere else.’

Stu, originally from Auckland in New Zealand, joined the Martin Place protest when it began last December.

‘I’m here because I want to show people in Sydney how bad the homeless situation is and to be in solidarity with other homeless people. I came to Australia in 1979 and worked as a French polisher and in other jobs. I set up a small business in Canberra importing fireworks but the government changed the law and my business collapsed.

‘There were court cases and appeals. All the money I had went on that and my life went downhill. I was jailed for 15 months for driving without a licence. I couldn’t get any work and I’ve now got heart problems and I’m on a disability.

‘I’ve been homeless now for seven years. I’ve been helped by various charities but it’s only temporary. They can’t seem to be able to do much for us. The tents and sleeping bags we have here have been donated but apart from that the people here don’t have anything. It’s homeless week and there’s all this publicity. We have CEOs doing sleep outs every year but this doesn’t change anything.

‘I don’t agree with the state government or Sydney council. They talk on the media about how they’re concerned about homelessness, but what do they do? Politicians are only interested in looking after the rich. They can push us out of Martin Place or pass laws banning what we’re doing but this isn’t going to help us find accommodation and we’ll just have to go somewhere else. They want to cover up the problem.’

The author also recommends:
Australia: Melbourne homeless speak out against police harassment
[18 January 2017]
Australia: Melbourne homeless continue city protest
[6 June 2016]

Grouse moor landowners take criminal toll on our birds of prey

#Inglorious12th Thunderclap

The so called Glorious 12th (August) sees the start of grouse shooting season in the uplands.
You may hear lots of stories about how the uplands are managed and all the benefits that come with that for some breeding birds like Curlew for example; but there is of course a darker side to all this in the form of raptor persecution.  Grouse moors are intensively managed to produce unnaturally large numbers of Red Grouse, many of which will then be shot.  But anything that would naturally prey on the Red Grouse is not welcome on the shooting estates and it is worrying to see a lack of natural predators in these areas.
Don’t let my opinion sway you though, take a look through some of these links and decide for yourself.
Alleged illegal killing of a protected hen harrier
Shot Cumbrian Peregrine found at same location as dead Hen Harrier
Police investigating hen harrier death in Ravenstonedale area
Golden Eagles disappear too – mostly over grouse moors
Something I am learning is that where there is big money to be made there can also be criminal activity. Wildlife crime is not something you hear about enough in the news, as the environment and natural world are so far down the list of priorities in government, business, education etc.
 The evidence just keeps getting clearer and clearer that serious wildlife crime is taking place in the uplands.  Modern day technology is helping to bring these activities to light more and more.
Just one more statistic for you. In theory, the uplands in England could support over 300 pairs of hen harriers. Last year we just had just 4 breeding pairs.  Only about 1% of what could be there. Not really a statistic to be pushed down the priority list. And this year’s number of breeding hen harriers in England is not looking promising either. But even if the numbers doubled to 8 pairs, it still wouldn’t be acceptable.

So as the social media posts about the so called Glorious 12th start flooding in, wouldn’t it be great to see #Inglorious12th trending and raising much needed awareness about the criminal activity that continues to plague these important breeding grounds.

All comments are welcome, whether you agree or disagree. It’s always good to hear a wide range of opinions and ideas to move things forward.

Please sign up to the #Inglorious12th Thunderclap by clicking here and help raise awareness.

Last year 482 people signed up to a similar thunderclap and we created a social reach of over 1.3 million people. It would be great to reach even more people this year.

Thank you.
…………………………………………………Updates Since Blog Posted

This blog was only posted weeks ago, and yet the illegal raptor persecution continues. Including this one:

Short-eared owl shot on Leadhills Estate
https://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/2017/06/27/short-eared-owl-shot-on-leadhills-estate-police-appeal-for-info/

Since this blogpost was first published, the RSPB Skydancer team have published this year’s hen harrier breeding numbers.

Only 3 pairs of hen harrier have successfully bred in England this year
https://www.rspb.org.uk/community/ourwork/skydancer/b/skydancer/archive/2017/08/01/hen-harrier-breeding-numbers-in-england-2017.aspx

Homeless charity Crisis reveals over 12,100 UK households are squatting

Nearly 160,000 households, estimated at just under a quarter of a million people, are experiencing the worst forms of homelessness across Britain, with rough sleeping forecast to rise by 76 per cent in the next decade unless the governments in Westminster, Scotland and Wales take long-term action to tackle it.

This is according to new expert analysis conducted for Crisis by Heriot-Watt University providing the most complete picture to-date of the worst forms of homelessness, including rough sleeping and sofa surfing, as well as 25-year forecasts for each category across England, Wales and Scotland.

You can read or download the report here

Launched as part of Crisis’s 50th anniversary year and drawing on the most up-to-date sources available, the report estimates that at any one time in 2016 across Britain [breakdown also available by nation]:

  • 9,100 people were sleeping rough, compared to previous estimates placing rough sleeping at 4,134 households for England
  • 68,300 households* were sofa surfing
  • 19,300 households were living in unsuitable temporary accommodation
  • 37,200 households were living in hostels
  • 26,000 households were living in other circumstances, including:
    • 8,900 households sleeping in tents, cars or on public transport
    • 12,100 households living in squats
    • 5,000 households in women’s refuges or winter night shelters

Drawing on detailed economic modelling, the report warns that if current policies continue unchanged, the most acute forms of homelessness are likely to keep rising, with overall numbers estimated to increase by more than a quarter in the coming decade (26.5 per cent) and households in unsuitable temporary accommodation set to nearly double (93 per cent) [see appendix for graph]. 

The analysis also looks at how different policies could make an impact on this projected rise. Based on the model, a 60 per cent increase in new housing could reduce levels of homelessness by 19 per cent by 2036, while increased prevention work could reduce levels by 34 per cent in the same period.

In response to the report’s findings, Crisis is calling on the public to join its Everybody In campaign – a national movement for permanent change aimed at ending the worst forms of homelessness once and for all.

Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis, said: “This year Crisis marks its 50th anniversary, but that’s little cause for celebration. We still exist because homelessness still exists, and today’s report makes it only too clear that unless we take action as a society, the problem is only going to get worse with every year that passes. That means more people sleeping on our streets, in doorways or bus shelters, on the sofas of friends or family, or getting by in hostels and B&Bs. In order to tackle this, we need to first understand the scale of the problem.

“Regardless of what happens in people’s lives, whatever difficulties they face or choices they make, no one should ever have to face homelessness. With the right support at the right time, it doesn’t need to be inevitable. There are solutions, and we’re determined to find them and make them a reality.

“Yet we can’t do this alone, which is why we’re calling on the public to back our Everybody In campaign and help us build a movement for change. Together we can find the answers, and make sure those in power listen to them.”

“We warmly welcome the Government’s pledge to tackle rough sleeping and other forms of homelessness. Now’s the time for action and long term planning to end homelessness for good.”

Everybody In aims to bring people together to change opinions, raise awareness and ultimately end homelessness for good, and includes a library of first-hand accounts showing the reality of homelessness in Britain.

Alongside this, Crisis will be working towards a national plan to end the worst forms of homelessness once and for all, bringing together everything needed to make this happen, including consultations in all three nations and a large scale programme of research.

Today’s report is the first of two parts, with the second – due for publication in the Autumn – to examine ‘wider homelessness’, including people at risk of homelessness or those who have already experienced it, such as households that have been served an eviction notice and those in other forms of temporary accommodation.

The Grenfell inquiry must feel the collars of the developers carving up our cities

The revolving door connecting politicians with lobbyists clearly helps them, but does it benefit us?

Anna Minton is a housing writer and author of Ground Control: fear and happiness in the twenty-first-century city

The community of North Kensington is demanding that the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire be widened in scope. It must, local people say, “seek to understand how residents’ voices have been systematically ignored for so long”. On the other side of London, Haringey residents took to the streets last week, protesting at their council’s plans for regeneration.

To understand why people feel their voices are not being heard, it is essential to investigate the environment in which politicians and developers operate. Local government has a history of corruption that includes the jailing of the Newcastle council leader T Dan Smith in the early 1970s, and the illegal decisions made by Shirley Porter in the Westminster “homes for votes” scandal in the 1980s.

Today such criminality is rarer. Instead, we have a concerning culture of cronyism that, while not illegal, suggests a lack of accountability. From the housing minister down to the local councillor, elected politicians now routinely rub shoulders with property developers, house builders and commercial lobbyists. This is no accident. Politicians’ decisions have an impact on companies’ ambitions, whether they are reviewing planning applications, setting affordable housing targets or “regenerating” whole areas. Bluntly, companies want these decisions to go their way. Develop connections with the decision-maker and you can “strip out risk”, in the words of one lobbying firm.

The politicisation of planning has come with the growth of the regeneration industry. While once planning officers in local government made recommendations that elected members of planning committees generally followed, today lobbyists are able to exert far greater influence.

It’s not easy to see into this world, but there are traces in the public domain. Registers of hospitality, for example, detail some of the interactions between councillors and the commercial property business. Take a week in the life of Nick Paget-Brown, the Kensington and Chelsea leader who resigned in the aftermath of the Grenfell fire. In October last year he had lunch at the five-star riverside Royal Horseguards Hotel courtesy of the property giant Willmott Dixon. The previous evening he had been at a reception put on by the business lobby group London First, whose membership is dominated by property and housing firms. He had breakfast with the Grosvenor Estate, the global property empire worth £6.5bn, and lunch at Knightsbridge’s Carlton Tower Hotel. This was paid for by the Cadogan Estate, the second largest of the aristocratic estates (after Grosvenor), which owns 93 acres in Kensington, including Sloane Square and the King’s Road.

Image result for rock feilding mellenTory in charge of Grenfell Tower refurbishment investigated TWICE over his role: Rock Feilding-Mellen was probed after Kensington and Chelsea Council approved a scheme to lease a library building to a prep school at which his children were on the waiting list

Rock Feilding-Mellen, the councillor in charge of the Grenfell Tower refurbishment, who has stepped down as the council’s deputy leader, had his own list of engagements. As the Grenfell Action Group noted earlier this year, he was a dinner guest of Terrapin, the firm founded by Peter Bingle, a property lobbyist renowned for lavish hospitality.

Bingle is also a player in the other big regeneration story of recent weeks: Haringey council’s approval of plans for its HDV – Haringey development vehicle. This is a “partnership” with the Australian property developer Lendlease, a lobbying client of Terrapin’s. The HDV promises to create a £2bn fund to build a new town centre and thousands of new homes, but local residents on the Northumberland Park housing estate, whose homes will be demolished, are vehemently opposed. The Haringey leader, Claire Kober, has lunched or dined six times at Terrapin’s expense.

Nick Paget-Brown, leader of Kensington and Chelsea council.
Nick Paget-Brown, former leader of Kensington and Chelsea council.

In Southwark, just as in Haringey and Kensington, there is a revolving door between politicians and lobbyists. The former leader of Southwark council, Jeremy Fraser, went on to found the lobbying firm Four Communications, where he was joined by Southwark’s former cabinet member for regeneration Steve Lancashire. Derek Myers, who until 2013 jointly ran Kensington and Chelsea and Hammersmith and Fulham councils, is now a director of the London Communications Agency, a lobbying agency with property developers on its client list. Merrick Cockell, the leader of Kensington and Chelsea until 2013, now chairs the lobbying firm Cratus Communications, which also specialises in property lobbying. In Westminster, the hospitality register for the last three years of its deputy leader, Robert Davis – chair of the council’s planning committee for 17 years – runs to 19 pages.

Cities other than London and rural areas also provide examples of worrying relationships. In East Devon a serving councillor was found in 2013 to be offering his services as a consultant to help developers get the planning decisions they wanted. In Newcastle a councillor who worked for a lobbying company boasted of “tricks of the trade” that included making sure planning committees included friendly faces.

Meanwhile the culture of regular meetings and socialising does not stop with councils. The diary of David Lunts, head of housing and land at the Greater London Authority for the first three months of 2017, reveals a lunch in Mayfair with Bingle, a VIP dinner laid on by a London developer, another meal paid for by a housing giant, and dinner on Valentine’s Day with a regeneration firm. Consultants and a developer furnished him with more meals before he headed off to Cannes for Mipim, the world’s biggest property fair. He also had dinner with Rydon, the firm that refurbished Grenfell Tower.

Further up the food chain, it was only because of Bingle’s boasts that we heard of a dinner he gave the then local government secretary, Eric Pickles. Held in the Savoy’s Gondoliers Room, it was also attended by business chiefs, including one who was waiting for a planning decision from Pickles’s department. The dinner was never declared on any register of hospitality because Pickles said he was attending in a private capacity.

Lunt’s former colleague Richard Blakeway, who was London’s deputy mayor for housing until last year, and David Cameron’s adviser on housing policy, became a paid adviser to Willmott Dixon. He is also on the board of the Homes and Communities Agency, the government body that regulates and invests in social housing. Its chair is Blakeway’s old boss, the former London deputy mayor for policy and planning Ed Lister, who is also a non-executive director of the developer Stanhope.

The MP Mark Prisk, housing minister until 2013, advocated “removing unnecessary housing, construction and planning regulations” as part of the government’s red tape challenge. He became an adviser to the property developer Essential Living, eight months after leaving office. Prisk advises the firm on legislation, providing support for developments and “brand” building. Essential Living’s former development manager Nick Cuff was also a Conservative councillor and chair of Wandsworth’s planning committee. A colleague of Cuff’s, who spent 30 years in the south London borough’s planning department, now works for Bingle’s lobbying firm, Terrapin.

This is the world that Kensington’s Paget-Brown and Feilding-Mellen, Haringey’s Kober and countless other council leaders inhabit. Socialising between these property men – and they are mostly men – is used to cement ties, and the lines between politician, official, developer and lobbyist are barely drawn. This culture, and the questions of accountability it raises, must be part of the public inquiry into Grenfell. It is perhaps no surprise that the government doesn’t want it to be.

Tamasin Cave, a director of the lobbying transparency organisation Spinwatch, contributed to this article

Anna Minton is a housing writer and author of Ground Control: fear and happiness in the twenty-first-century city

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