National Trust members reject motions attacking Pride and rewilding involvement

National Trust members have rejected motions criticising its involvement in Pride events and rewilding projects.

More than 127,000 of the charity’s members voted on new proposals and council candidates at the Annual General Meeting on Saturday.

The National Trust’s membership has been divided in recent years, with campaign group Restore Trust criticising the charity’s policies on social inclusion and rewilding.

But the majority of members voted down a motion to condemn the National Trust’s participation in Pride events with 65% voting against it at the AGM.

Meanwhile, 70% rejected a motion to criticise recent rewilding and re-wetting projects on National Trust farmland as well as the charity buying farmland for that purpose.

National Trust issues warning
A team of gardeners planting 2,000 lavender plants, as part of a strategy to adapt the garden to current and future climates, at Cliveden House, Berkshire (PA)

Members also voted against a motion asking the charity to rethink its support for a £1.7 billion two-mile tunnel for the A303 near Stonehenge.

Restore Trust, which has been seeking to gain more control over the direction of the charity, saw little success as both its motions failed to get enough support to be carried forward.

A majority of 68% voted against its motion to establish an ombudsman to oversee the charity’s work.

The group’s motion to abolish the proxy vote system – where members who do not attend the AGM are given the option to hand over their vote to the chairman – also failed to get support from a majority of members.

The National Trust membership
A National Trust sign for the Needles Headland on the Isle of Wight (PA)

None of the seven candidates that Restore Trust backed were elected to the council.

However, all seven candidates recommended by the existing council members’ Nominations Committee were elected, including Harris Bokhari, founder of the charity Patchwork Foundation, and Sally Hunt, a trade union leader.

Hilary McGrady, director general of the National Trust, said: “Our Annual General Meeting is one of the most important events in our calendar.

“It is an essential part of our democratic governance process, as it gives our members the opportunity to ask the questions on the subjects that matter most to them and to have their say on the direction and focus of the National Trust.

“Our AGM is also a celebration of everything we do: our stories, our places and our people. I am delighted that we were able to share so much of that today.”

A Restore Trust spokesman said: “While all the members’ resolutions were defeated by the block vote, that is, by people ticking one box to vote automatically with the Trustees’ recommendations, our resolution calling for the abolition of the Chairman’s discretionary proxy vote received the most support of all six resolutions, with over 50,000 votes.

“Our candidates this year won many more votes than the ones we supported last year. Again, they were only defeated by the National Trust’s candidates who benefited from the “quick vote”, that is to say, people who voted for all seven recommended candidates by ticking only one box.

“We are satisfied with the increase in our support, but disappointed that the voting system now makes it all but impossible for members to get resolutions passed which are not supported by the Trustees or for Council candidates to get elected who are not recommended by the Nominations Committee. We are concerned that this system will keep independent voices out of the Council and that the Trustees will not be held properly to account.”