National Trust to focus on cities and towns in a "radical" new urban approach

Telegraph Reporters
Hilary McGrady, who was named as the trust's leader in December, has spoken publicly for the first time after getting the job and insisted the country's biggest charity needs a fresh approach - National Trust

The National Trust is to shift its focus towards Britain's cities and towns as the charity's director-general embarks on a "radical" new direction. 

Hilary McGrady, who was named as the trust's leader in December, has spoken publicly for the first time after getting the job and insisted the country's biggest charity needs a fresh approach.

People living in urban areas in the UK are the people who are most deprived of natural beauty, according to the director-general, who said it is the National Trust's responsibility to bring it to them.

Talking to the BBC, she allured to plans for trust-run city allotments, and said: "The reality is, I want to go to where they [city residents] are. 

"The people that need beauty the most, are the ones that have least access to it. I think the idea of people coming to us on our terms - those days are probably gone.

"I want to reach more people, and more people live in urban areas. It's got to be radical. But rather than change it I want to add to it."

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Ms McGrady also tackled what she called the "wicked" issue of hunting, and reassured members that there would be no ban on hunting. 

"It's not going to solve itself," she said. "Trail hunting is a legal thing to do, the trust has introduced much more robust licence this year and we'll make sure those licences are followed."

The move comes a month after the National Trust was criticised by a former charities minister for handing its staff an inflation busting-pay rise – weeks after justifying a large hike in membership fees for millions of members by saying the extra money will be spent on conservation.

National Trust workers voted to accept a 4.5 per cent pay offer, described by Prospect, their union, as a "ground-breaking" deal.

Prospect said it had also agreed to hold further talks about creating a comprehensive "well-being strategy" for the Trust's staff. It emerged some 8,270 Trust staff would get a pay rise of up 4.5 per cent.

The news came just weeks after the National Trust announced that it would increase fees for its six million members from March 1 by as much as 6.5 per cent, more than twice inflation of 2.5 per cent.

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At the time of the announcement in January, the Trust issued a long statement justifying the increase by saying it would help to fund its biggest ever programme of conservation repairs, maintenance and improvements. No mention was made of the pay talks.

Rob Wilson, a former Tory MP who was Charities minister from 2014 to 2017, said the Trust should have been upfront about the salary talks so members could decide whether to renew.

He told The Daily Telegraph: “The reputation of charities is going through a pretty torrid time at the moment, so it is essential they are as transparent as possible to maintain the trust of the public. 

“When making increases in membership fees, it would be sensible for the sake of openness for the National Trust to declare all significant new costs that are relevant to the rise. 

 

 

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