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Press release

National Trust issues key manifesto asks to protect nature and heritage for everyone

Hilary McGrady, Director-General of the National Trust
Hilary McGrady, Director-General of the National Trust | © National Trust Images/James Dobson

The National Trust’s Director-General Hilary McGrady has today (26 October) outlined the three minimum requirements any future Government should commit to, so the future of nature and heritage can be secured for everyone.

The Trust has 5.7m members and cares for over five hundred historic buildings, 250,000 hectares of land and over 780 miles of coastline around England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It was established more than 128 years ago for the promotion and preservation of nature and heritage for everyone.

Hilary McGrady said: “The next general election will have a profound impact on all our futures. Nature and our climate are facing an emergency. The Trust has a long history of contributing to the challenges of the day: from the need for green spaces for Victorian city dwellers, to the post-war dissolution of country houses and collections, to the over-development of Britain’s coastline. This means acting as partner, friend and critic to governments, while never straying into party politics.

“The legal commitments to reach net zero by 2050 and reverse the decline of nature by 2030, require concerted action and we are looking for the policies to match.”

The National Trust wants action in three areas. Firstly, progress towards the renewal of nature must be accelerated. Just three per cent of UK land and eight per cent of the sea is properly protected, while every river in England is polluted beyond legal limits.

Hilary McGrady continued: “The sad truth is that the condition of our rivers is indicative of the health of all UK nature: abused and polluted, too long taken for granted.”

The Trust wants to see adequately resourced watchdogs with more teeth capable of tackling both sewage and agricultural pollution. It also wants to see a transition to nature friendly farming, making the system work for nature, farmers, and food production.

Secondly, any future government should recognise the impact of climate change on the nations’ heritage, landscapes and natural environment. Coastal erosion, floods and extreme heat are taking effect and adaptation is vital. The Trust wants to see policy changes to help reduce the emissions from our historic buildings, protecting community heritage.

Hilary McGrady continued: “Following Storm Babet we saw severe levels of flooding at some of our places. Everything we care for, from our collections to the country houses, their gardens, and the surrounding landscape are being affected by climate change.”

Historic buildings typically have a higher carbon footprint due largely to limited insulation and single glazing. Properties built before 1920 make up a fifth of the England’s total housing stock.

Research shows a national strategy to make historic buildings greener could reduce their carbon emissions by over 60 per cent by 2050. While VAT on new build construction is set at zero, VAT on housing repair, maintenance and restoration is 20 per cent. The Trust wants to see that equalised. It also wants to see a green workforce with tradespeople given the skills to retrofit homes and businesses.

Along with other organisations involved in the research, the Trust has identified the need for more than 200,000 workers to retrofit historic buildings to meet the UK’s net zero targets, more than double the current estimate. Meeting this challenge would generate £35bn of output, resulting in homes that are less expensive to heat.

Thirdly, it wants everyone to be able to benefit from high quality nature and heritage where they live by calling for a legally binding target – that everyone should be able to access green space within a 15-minute walk from their home.

Hilary McGrady continued: “We know the benefits of being in nature for people but there is unequal access to it. We’d like to see the largest improvement in access to urban green space since the Victorian era.

“We need long term strategy not short-term politics, and we know that there is huge public appetite to address these issues. Four in five voters believe that protecting nature should be a priority for policymakers.

“We have a great opportunity for the environment and the economy to work for each other and policy makers would be wise to see the connection, it isn’t a choice between the two.”

These three main asks are part of the National Trust’s Election Policy Platform outlining the seven critical priorities which should be at the forefront of the political agenda during the upcoming general election. The Election Policy Platform sits alongside and in support of the Wildlife and Countryside Link Nature 2030 manifesto and Heritage Alliance Election Manifesto, of which the National Trust is a signatory.

Rangers planting trees to help tackle climate change at Hafod Garegog, Snowdonia, Wales

Our policy priorities at a glance 

Read more about the critical priorities we believe must be at the forefront of the political agenda during the upcoming general election.

Our policy platform in full

Our policy platform in full 

Download our full policy platform to read more about the seven policies we are proposing to safeguard our heritage and help nature thrive.