Board of Trustees’ Report 2016/17

You can see The Vyne's project unfolding on the rooftop walkway

It's two years since the National Trust launched its strategy, Playing our part, which describes our ambitions to 2025. This was designed to deliver our core purpose in ways relevant to the conservation challenges of today. Progress has been excellent and we remain confident that the strategy is addressing the major conservation challenges of today and tomorrow.

The National Trust’s success in generating income determines its ability to invest in our core purpose – into the sorts of projects described in the Annual Report. We are, therefore, delighted to report that during 2016/17, what we call our Operating Margin, (the proportion of our income that we are able to reinvest into our core purpose) exceeded £100 million for the first time ever. This is a remarkable achievement and one that will enable us to do even more in future.

How we spent our budget

Our investments during 2016/17 were, as always, primarily directed at conservation, both backlog repairs and improved presentation. A major project at The Vyne in Hampshire, launched during the year, provides examples of both, including a new roof (complete with scaffold access for visitors) and the re-presentation of interiors which we are developing in partnership with three universities. Other examples are included in the Annual Report.


Working in partnership with other organisations was an important part of this year, and will continue to be so next year, particularly with our ambition to improve the natural environment and in our work to help people look after the places where they live. The Chair and Director-General have described the importance of doing so in the outdoors, as we begin to plan on a landscape scale.

Partnerships are also important in urban environments. For example, towards the end of the year, we announced our work with Newcastle City Council and others to look at how they might establish a community-led trust to manage the city’s parks. We’ve also acquired a lease with the Canal & River Trust on The Roundhouse in Birmingham – a Victorian municipal building, which will become a base for walking, cycling and canoeing tours. 

External agenda

The year’s external agenda was dominated by Brexit and the uncertainties it brings, especially for our tenant farmers. As part of our strategic ambitions for nature, our message has been that any successor system to the Common Agricultural Policy must recognise farming practices that are good for nature as well as farm production. We will continue to pursue this message with the Government and other decision-makers.

Because so much of our land is devoted to agriculture, the practices of our tenant farmers are central to our ambitions. During the year we piloted new Estate Management Plans at a number of properties. New estate managers are working with our rangers, tenant farmers and other partners to develop approaches that support our ambitions for a healthier, more beautiful natural environment. 

Technological advances

Last year, we described the National Trust’s major investment in the technology supporting our financial, membership and tills systems, and our online service to members. We're delighted to report that – bar some on-going work with tills – this work is complete.

Investing in people

During the year, we also invested more in the staff needed to look after our places. For example, following a major review, we have almost doubled the number of curator roles to be employed by the National Trust in 2017.

You can read about this and our wider agenda of skills investment in the Annual Report. During the year, we also launched the National Trust’s first Research Strategy, which describes our ambition to continue to deepen our knowledge to support the delivery of internationally renowned conservation.

We would like to join the Chair and Director-General in thanking everyone who made 2016/17 another year of success – our staff and volunteers, our members, donors, centres and associations, partners and other supporters. Everyone has truly played their part.