What are your views on the resolutions submitted for the 2017 AGM?

Tim Parker

Resolutions have been submitted to the forthcoming AGM, about the A303 at Stonehenge, and for a cessation of trail hunting, exempt hunting and hound exercise. What are your views on them?

Sarah Green, Northumberland

Firstly, the quality and diversity of these resolutions demonstrates the engagement and strength of the Trust’s membership model.

On the A303, I agree that the National Trust needs to support a solution acting as a critical friend to the DfT as they develop the detailed scheme whilst continuing to research the impact of the proposed tunnel and further mitigating actions. As more information becomes available, the National Trust’s Board should ensure it reviews and if necessary, changes its position.

As the National Trust’s mission is to “ensure its special places are enjoyed by everyone”, it is difficult to ban any group who represent a legitimate interest (regardless of my personal view on trail hunting).  Trail hunting should be regulated through licensing agreements and any breaches should result in action from the National Trust. If there are multiple issues with the trail hunting community the licensing of this activity should be reconsidered.

Steve Anderson, West Midlands

I’m inclined to say that if Stonehenge was in the Home Counties this would have been sorted years ago, and I’m quite sure if it was HS2 it would come with a longer tunnel. The National Trust prides itself in carrying out world class conservation and should therefore hold out for world class mitigation.

In 2016 The National Trust kicked football and cricket teams off the Shugborough estate explaining (badly) that it wasn’t there to provide public amenity. I think that set a precedent which on the grounds of equality must apply to trail hunting as well. Trail hunting can still continue without access to National Trust land, although I appreciate some hunts will be more inconvenienced than others, and the people who trail hunt will still be welcome at National Trust properties, just as long as they don’t bring a pack of hounds.

I will therefore be supporting both members’ resolutions

Virginia Llado-Buisan, Oxford

Being aware of the National Trust’s stance on this issue and recent modification to Highways England’s plan, I am still concerned about the proximity of the tunnel proposed to the Stonehenge and surrounding archeological sites, because of the possible vibration, the effects on the water table, the impact of pollution, light, and air quality on the environment, communities and cultural heritage. More environmental, community and heritage assessments are needed during consultation, so people can understand better the mitigation measures proposed to minimise the effects of the scheme.

On the resolution about the cessation of trail hunting, exempt hunting and hound exercise, the Trust has reviewed their regulations and is committed to finding a balance between inclusion of the fullest range of land users and protecting the environment. Whilst this might bring some improvements, I am personally not confident that the measures proposed will solve the issue of illegal hunting.

Raymond Williams, Buckinghamshire

Stonehenge is such a priceless area for the World. I believe that the Stonehenge area should stand alone in majesty and peace. The A303 is bad enough at the moment. Let people enjoy our priceless Stonehenge. If the door is open to all comers, it will destroy the enjoyment for thousands of people from all over the World. If people want to practice hunting of any kind, can they not do it somewhere else? Providing it is legal practice sport, Clubs should use other facilities.

Leigh McManus, Leicestershire

Stonehenge: The road should be removed not doubled in size, although the National Trust has mitigated the current plan it will still have a harmful effect on the site, the heritage and the environment.

Trail Hunting: I am opposed to all hunting that is harmful to animals or the environment, it is after all illegal. The National Trust is making some improvements to the way trail hunting is licensed and monitored and a closer relationship with the National Wildlife Crime Unit who are best placed to deal with this issue should bring the required results.

Guy Trehane, Dorset

Broadly in agreement with the National Trust’s position, however, I look forward to the AGM debate.

Emma Mee, Cambridge

Although a tunnel will protect the site, I see such rapid developments in transport technology (i.e. autonomous vehicles), I am hesitant to agree that £1.6bn couldn’t be better spent. All evidence suggests expanding roads simply leads to more traffic. The timeframe (already 15 years in discussion, and won’t start until 2021) suggests we will be in a very different world by the time it is completed. I want to ensure the solution is future-proofed.

As evidence suggests foxhunting is still occurring, then I support the cessation of trail hunting. Although I respect the culture and history of a traditional pastime, in 2017 it is time to relegate it to the history books. With a growing population and all the pressures already identified, we simply do not have the wild spaces to provide habitats for rural foxes, nor the space for it to go unnoticed from a disapproving society. 

Michael Tavener, West Midlands

These are clearly emotive topics and it is important that they are discussed in a pragmatic manner that is respectful of both sides.

In my capacity as a Council member I would seek to ensure that a decision on a particular matter was in the best interests of the National Trust, its members and wider stakeholders.

In respect of trail hunting, I do not believe that the inherent risk that it poses to wildlife as well as the potential reputational damage it could have on the National Trust is justifiable and is disproportionate to any perceived benefit that it may bring. 

In respect of the A303 at Stonehenge, the National Trust needs the ability to assess and test the proposals that are made, which at the early stage of the scheme the proposed resolution may prohibit. As the matter progresses this may have to be revisited.

Elizabeth Staples, Staffordshire

Having read the proposed resolutions, I am not in favour of either of these resolutions. The Board I feel has given good in-depth reasons for their recommendations which I agree with.

Inga Grimsey, Suffolk

1. The proposed solution at Stonehenge will ensure that the stones, their setting and the landscape are protected in a more sympathetic way than currently. As a World Heritage Site, the National Trust and its partners owes it to future generations that the stones and context are not threatened.

The National Trust must ensure that it is still involved in discussions to ensure improvements in the current proposal and that the benefits are optimised, rather than accepted as they currently stand.

2. The National Trust has a wide range of members and supporters. It has a policy of issuing licenses for certain activities. This ensures that access is allowed to as many of its supporters as possible to enjoy the land in the way they choose, provided the use does not impact on the Trust’s conservation work and the wider environment.

Therefore, I fully support the Council’s view on both these resolutions.

Christopher Catling, Wales

I know nothing about hunting. If elected to the National Trust Council, I will look for advice from those who know more about this issue, but in general I will be prepared to vote for whatever is best for wildlife.

As an archaeologist, I do know a great deal about Stonehenge. Every inch of the soil around Stonehenge is packed with evidence about the human past, and so a major intervention such as the tunnel has the potential to be very destructive or very informative - it all depends on whether adequate time and funding will be made available by the government for a comprehensive programme of archaeological work prior to the start of the road works. I will be working hard to ensure that everyone wins from the road tunnel and that the government does fund the delicate and time-consuming archaeological work that is needed.

Edel Trainor, Northern Ireland

I have already nominated a proxy to vote on my behalf on both these resolutions.I have never been a supporter of hunting as a sport.I accept the majority of hunts do act within the law and do not actively pursue live prey but accidents can and do happen and on occasion an animal is injured or killed by the hunt.I believe that as a conservation charity the National Trust should exclude any form of hunting from their lands.

I have never visited Stonehenge but I was able to see quite clearly from satellite imaginary that there are considerable earth works and archaeological features in the environs of the main site.In relation to the proposed upgrade I consider that any large scale engineering works in such an historic environment can only be to its detriment.I think that a better solution can be found than that currently proposed.

Bella Mezger, London

I share members’ views that we need to protect sites that the National Trust is responsible for and allow people to explore and enjoy our incredible heritage. I therefore support the Board of Trustees’ view that the current situation cannot continue, as the existing road negatively impacts the area. The Board and National Trust have considered independent and international advice and are working closely with other conservation and heritage organisations. I am therefore confident that the National Trust will only fully support the scheme if its designs are for the benefit of the WHS.

My view on trail hunting is that the revised process that the National Trust is putting in place to address many of the concerns raised, will help to ensure that standards are met. I believe that providing access to the fullest range of supporters is key to the National Trust’s purpose, and that a blanket ban would not encourage this.

Joff Whitten, Suffolk

What a pair of thorny questions!

I love dogs and I love the countryside but I don’t see hunting in any form as something positive for the modern world. Find another way of exercising your horse, or a better way of socialising on the weekend. We don’t, for example, have mock bear-baiting in an attempt to recreate a particular form of heritage. Yes livelihoods have had to change and freedom of choice is important but trail hunting often ‘accidentally’ becomes real hunting and frankly the practice is shameful.

The A303 is more subtle. Stonehenge is globally significant and will always attract vast amounts of attention. Various options have been presented but the tunnel appears to be the only viable one currently. With planning, consultation and careful thinking the impact will hopefully be kept to a minimum. I think transparency in decision making needs to be shared throughout this process.

Caroline Kay, Wiltshire

Stonehenge – the current A303 is a blight in the World Heritage landscape which risks, if it were turned into a surface dual carriageway, being a disaster for the site. A tunnel will greatly enhance the appreciation of the many monuments in the wider landscape and facilitate the restoration of precious chalk downland. A longer tunnel might look like a better solution, but it is not on offer for a variety of reasons. The current proposal removes the threat of surface ‘dualling’ and will I believe be carefully managed and mitigated, in the interests of the full archaeological heritage, by National Trust and HE’s many highly competent archaeologists.

Cessation of trail hunting - the new licensing arrangements seem to me to ensure that the law is upheld on National Trust property, illegal hunting resulting in a kill is prevented and a lawful pursuit which some people enjoy is given the opportunity to continue.

Duncan Mackay, Berkshire

Stonehenge is internationally important for the whole landscape not just the stones. This landscape is a World Heritage Site designated by UNESCO. We don’t have a spare one. My sympathies are with anyone who wants to preserve this landscape. Management remedies to help traffic flow should be addressed using the least damaging solutions suggested in July 2017 by UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee.

Similarly trail hunting requires a transparent solution. The National Trust’s management of trail hunting must be firm and fair but with penalties. Only Parliament bans things and trail hunting is not yet illegal. Octavia Hill, ironically, once declared that the Trust “by no means plan to give access to the tramp, the London rough, the noisy beanfeaster, or the shouting crowds of children…”. Beans and noisy children are still available at many National Trust properties but more contentious practices must be scrutinised, with licence withdrawal the penalty for transgressions.

Grevel Lindop, Manchester

Trail hunting: this should be left to the management of individual National Trust properties. The environmental, ecological and social issues vary from place to place and are far too complex to be solved by a blanket resolution from members. So against the resolution.  

Stonehenge: the debate has raged for at least 50 years. No perfect solution exists. No solution can be certain of not disturbing archaeological sites still undiscovered. The present plan, so far, is as good as we shall get, but will need monitoring by the World Heritage people. We should get perspective from the reflection that in 1000 years' time, our own work will be of interest to future archeologists (or possibly regarded as the work of giants). Against.

Caroline Jarrold, Norfolk

On the first resolution, there has been so much debate over many decades and the site is compromised by the current road. There will always be some downsides but the benefits to visitors and the more appropriate ability to see Stonehenge in its wider historic context will enhance the experience for all, whilst also reducing the traffic bottlenecks which occur during busy periods. The plans are still under discussion and I believe that there is scope for more than satisfactory solutions to the challenges.

On the second resolution, I believe that the additional measures which the National Trust is implementing to ensure that trail hunting is carried out within the law on its land are sensible and can be effective. The National Trust should not be preventing activities which are legal.