MP says there is rot in the National Trust
Whilst marking its 125th anniversary and praising the National Trust as a fantastic institution and part of Britain’s global offer
Derek Thomas, MP for St Ives (West Cornwall & Scilly) used a debate he led in the House of Commons last night to say there is rot in the National Trust and is calling for a review into whether the charity is behaving in accordance with its core guiding principles.
Mr Thomas provided increasing evidence that the National Trust was reaching far beyond what people believe is their purpose and function.
It is acting as a completely unaccountable body that can imposition lives and livelihoods without any right to reply or recourse, taking no concern for how long it takes to engage even when individuals and businesses are seeking to proactively engage and appease NT staff, he said.
The MP said complaints received from his constituents include:
- The NT proposing landowners carry out activity (including erecting buildings) on land neither the trust nor the owner owns
- House sales either falling though or prices dramatically reduced due to obstructive interventions and/or delays by the NT
- Constituents waiting two and a half years for the NT to finalise a covenant
- Businesses being charged a levy in return for NT consent to developments on privately-owned land
- Appearing to favour the promotion of holiday accommodation over the maintenance of small but important farms along the Cornish coast.
- Blocking efforts to install renewable energy solar panels on privately-owned agriculture buildings.
- Having a disregard for local sensitivities, listed building regulations and basic planning processes.
- Refusing to take responsibility for assets which are unsafe for the general public.
Having already written to the Charity Commission requesting they look into NT practices, Mr Thomas said consideration should be given to creating an Ombudsman for people who believe they are being treated wrongfully or poorly by the NT so that they have a method to be heard and for the NT to be held to account, in particular on the way they interpret their covenants, in some cases preventing farmers from carrying with normal farming practices such as removing stones from fields.
Mr Thomas told the House Only this weekend, I was asked, Please could you ask the National Trust if it is still their policy to support small family farms? Or given their current financial crisis will they opt for the short term financial gain of holiday accommodation over the long term benefit of local employment and better husbandry of the land?
Farmers, business owners and home-owners tell me they need an Ombudsman because the cost of litigating to defend themselves is far too high so they buckle under the pressure, he added.
I have a positive history with the National Trust I have tremendous respect for their volunteers who do good work in West Cornwall, I enjoy a good relationship with many of the staff.
I dont believe the Trust is rotten to the core but there is certainly rot within the organisation. 125 years on there is a need to review how it operates to ensure that it delivers on its primary purpose and charitable aims.
Mr Thomas used further examples from Cape Cornwall Golf Club, Levant Mine and Porthleven slipway as difficulties he had encountered with the trust. He said During my brief time as a MP, I have found that the case load of National Trust-related issues is disproportionate to the many other issues that an MPs office encounters.
Defending the timing of his debate, Mr Thomas went on to say This is about identifying some of the concerns that constituents have, in order to address them, so that we can return to the core values and be reminded of the fantastic work that the National Trust can deliver through a huge army of fantastic volunteers across the United Kingdom. However, it is of great concern if the National Trusts approach to increasing yield is to make as much money as it can, rather than protect and enhance small farms and support the fresh blood introduced into the sector.
The full debate can be found here in Hansard