National Trust reveals central office plans as visits hit record high

Press release
Heelis, Central Office for the National Trust, Swindon, Wiltshire.
Published : 21 Jun 2019

The National Trust has announced plans for a refit of its Swindon office, reinforcing its commitment to keeping its main office in the town.

The revamp of its award-winning Heelis office, near the Steam Museum and Swindon Designer Outlet, will provide sufficient work space for the Trust to bring all staff in Swindon under one roof, as well as providing greater opportunities for staff from across the country to work at the charity’s central office.

Opened in 2005 and designed with an emphasis on sustainability and environmental design, the offices won a range of prestigious awards, including the RIBA Award for Sustainability (2006).

Since then, the Trust has seen membership numbers almost double to record levels, from 3.5 million to about 5.6 million, and the number of visits rise from 19 million to nearly 27 million each year.

To support this growth, the number of staff across the country and at properties has grown from about 3,360 in 2005 to about 6,380 today including visitor welcome and guide roles, retail, and catering. To support these frontline roles, the number of staff working at Heelis has also risen in the same period, from about 430 to around 850 today, with a further 150 staff based in rented workspace nearby in Swindon.

The plan will also allow the charity to update its IT and technology systems to better manage increasing visits to its properties as well as improve connections between its teams across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The charity has considered a range of options, including increasing the size of the offices by extending out into its car park, but believes this would have a greater environmental impact and would not be the most cost efficient. Instead, the Trust will refit the existing internal office space to better meet its needs for the future and allow more staff to work at Heelis.

Tina Lewis, Director of People and Legal Services, said: “The popularity of the National Trust has never been greater, with record numbers of members helping us to look after some of the nation’s most special places.

“To support the increasing demand from more visitors, we’ve invested in more staff to ensure the 26 million people who visit our properties every year have the best possible experiences. These colleagues are supported by a growing number of staff at Heelis - our central office. This creates growing demands on office space, as well as a need to invest in new technology to support how people work today, and we need to look at how best to use what we have.

“To accommodate more people, some of which are based at another office in Swindon, and to allow colleagues from across the country to be better connected, we are reconfiguring our Heelis office and upgrading our technology so it fits our needs now and for the future.

“At a time when employment in the area is facing considerable challenge, this investment also underlines the Trust’s commitment to keeping its central office in Swindon.”

Alongside this investment, other benefits resulting from the main office being in Swindon include continued support for the local economy through expenditure in local retail, accommodation and transport.

Some elements of the plan will now be subject to a planning application being submitted to Swindon Borough Council shortly. Subject to approval it is hoped work will begin in early 2020, with completion by summer 2020.

Later this year the public café and shop in Heelis will close, with early discussions taking place to make better use of the outside area at the front of the main office for public and recreational use.