The National Trust is today launching a new 10 year strategy. Called “Playing our Part”, the strategy was born from work we have been doing to identify today’s most pressing challenges to our mission to “promote the preservation of places of historic interest and natural beauty…for the benefit of the nation”.
All through our history, the leaders of the Trust have responded to the needs of the day, whether that was for green spaces in cities, the preservation of the country house, or access to the coast or to wild places in our most beautiful countryside.
The strategy identifies four areas where we must play our part:
- Looking after the nation’s special places
- A healthy, more beautiful natural environment
- Experiences that move, teach and inspire.
- Helping look after the places where people live
We think the nation still needs the National Trust, particularly given the problems now for nature (see the State of Nature report or the work of the Natural Capital Committee) and for the places people live (both pressures from bad development and lack of funds for upkeep of public spaces like parks).
But the traditional National Trust way of doing things won’t solve the scale of these problems – we can’t buy everywhere to protect it, not least because we need to look after and improve what we’ve got first. And relying just on efforts to “green” the Common Agricultural Policy or on government spending to protect heritage and look after parks isn’t going to work when public spending is so under pressure or while the lobbying of those pushing short-term economic growth is so strong.
So we’re going to step up ourselves and work with partners to see what we collectively can do – for instance on landscape scale partnerships, developing new ways to fund the maintenance and improvement of natural ecosystem services and with new models to fund and manage green spaces.
But even if we can’t rely on government spending its way out of problems, we do need central and local government to be a partner in this. As we get into this year’s spending review, we’ll be warning against a “dumbing down” of government and loss of expertise in areas like Natural England, local planning, heritage and biodiversity officers and Defra research funding.
We don’t have all the answers yet – that’s why a key part of this is working much more with partners in the voluntary, private and public sectors. We also want to involve our volunteers, members, supporters and the public more in our work and the new systems and communications we’ll be rolling out will help that. We’re also reviewing our governance and asking our members for their views on how we’re run.
This is a long-term strategy for at least ten years – one of the National Trust’s great advantages is being able to take the long-term view and we hope that what we’re launching today will be for the benefit of generations to come.
External Affairs Director