MP Derek Thomas says 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.
In leading a Westminster debate to mark its 125th anniversary, Mr Thomas said the National Trust (NT) is “a fantastic institution that is part of Britain and our global offer” but went on to list a litany of complaints from his West Cornwall constituents which, he said, provided increasing evidence that the NT 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 complaints received from 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).
“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 don’t 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.”