National Trust pledges half a billion pounds for conservation, with a member now joining every 23 seconds

Press release
Director-General Hilary McGrady speaking at the Annual General Meeting 2019 in the Steam Museum, Swindon
Published : 29 Oct 2021 Last update : 30 Oct 2021

The National Trust will invest almost half a billion pounds in conservation projects over the next three years, the charity’s Director-General will announce today.

(UPDATE 30/10/2021 - Read the voting results from this year's AGM)

Speaking at the members’ annual meeting in Harrogate, Hilary McGrady will outline plans to spend three quarters of the amount (£360m) on houses, collections and gardens. The rest (£113m) will be spent on coast and countryside projects.

The figures come as the charity reveals its recovery from the pandemic is going well, but it expects it to be at least four years before its financial position returns to pre-pandemic levels.

In 2019/20 it spent £168.8m on conservation projects, but that figure was halved to £83.8m during the 2020/21 pandemic year when most of its income dried up after it was forced to close houses, shops and cafés.

The charity’s post-pandemic recovery is being boosted by an influx of members, with the latest average figures showing that a member is joining every 23 seconds (114,000 per month). And August 2021 was the charity’s third most successful recruitment month when 159,732 people signed up.

In her speech to members, Mrs McGrady will reflect on one of the charity’s most difficult years and pay tribute to volunteers, staff and members who have continued to support the Trust during the pandemic.

She will say: “Every house, every castle, every beach, chapel and hill we care for is thanks to you, our members, and generations of members that have gone before. Thank you for staying with us during a difficult year.

“I am grateful too for my extraordinary team of staff, who have worked to keep our gates and doors open in the most difficult circumstances.

“Last, but not least, I am indebted to our incredible volunteers for staying with us when times were uncertain, and for returning with all your love and passion.”

Despite the charity’s most challenging year, which for the first time in its 126-year-history saw every property forced to close, Mrs McGrady will set out an optimistic 12 months ahead with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, Commonwealth Games and a UK-wide festival of creativity among the highlights.

In the summer, as part of the celebration of UK creativity, the Trust will mark the 80th birthday of Sir Paul McCartney at his childhood home, now in the care of the charity. Next year will also see the National Trust join forces with the Victoria & Albert Museum for an exhibition of the life story of Beatrix Potter. The author’s home and Lake District farm are now in the care of the Trust.

Mrs McGrady will add: “After the last 18 months, I think we deserve an opportunity to celebrate. 2022 is set to be an extraordinary year of national events, and I’m pleased to say the Trust will be proudly joining in.

“The pandemic has given us all cause to reflect. At 126 years old, thanks to your support, we’ve endured World Wars, economic crises and now a pandemic, and we’re still here. Together we are still working for nature, beauty and history – for everyone, for ever.”