This year could not be more contrasting to the last for the National Trust, with the 18/19 financial year having seen its membership figures swell to 5.6 million and a total of 26.9 million visits made to its sites across the British Isles. Lockdown has drastically changed this sunny outlook.
Warning of potential losses reaching a staggering £200 million, National Trust director-general Hilary McGrady took to the pages of the Daily Telegraph to compel the government and public alike to keep forging on with environmental plans made before the Covid-19 outbreak.
“As the country starts to look beyond the immediate crisis,” McGrady notes, “we need the sort of forward-thinking we showed after the second world war when the National Health Service, National Parks and a planning system to protect green space were created.”
As recovery becomes an increasing focus for governments the world over, she urges the British administration to “learn from the last financial crisis and opt for renewal over mere recovery”.
Discussing the tussle that lies ahead, the Trust’s director-general says: “No doubt some will argue for quick, high-tariff fixes: new roads, building projects – in some cases cutting back on environmental checks, and spending to help deliver these. Others will want the Government to dilute its proposed new nature-friendly farming legislation. They must not win.
“If we sacrifice the environmental progress we’ve made, everyone will suffer.”
Nobody can accuse the National Trust of hollow rhetoric on this issue, with the charity already having pledged to achieve ‘net zero’ by 2030 – two decades prior to the UK Government’s own carbon emissions target – and promised to establish more than 18,000 hectares of new woodland across the UK in the next decade.
The Trust’s president, HRH Prince Charles, has also taken to his keyboard to share his thoughts on the current crisis – writing the foreword in the latest edition of the Trust’s magazine.
Despite noting that plans for a string of major events marking the charity’s 125th year have been “depressingly overshadowed by the current crisis”, the Prince of Wales adds: “today’s challenges make the National Trust more important than ever.”
Echoing the sentiments of McGrady, he asserts that despite the many challenges “there are huge opportunities actively to restore and improve the natural environment that sustains, engages and delights us in equal measure.”