NFU urges National Trust to work with tenant farmers as part of new strategy

Report, which lays out £1bn plan to protect the countryside, considers everything from threats to nature to investing in the nation's heritage

Steve Parsons/PA Wire Dame Helen Ghosh, director-general of the National Trust
Dame Helen Ghosh, director-general of the National Trust

The NFU has called on the National Trust to involve its tenant farmers in a new £1bn, 10-year strategy aimed at protecting the countryside.

Earlier this week, the trust – which takes care of everything from historic houses to nature reserves throughout the country – unveiled a report in which promised to “nurse the natural environment back to health and reverse the decline in wildlife”.

The body also said it would develop new economic models of land use and do more to safeguard green spaces.

NFU tenants national spokesman Chris Cardell, however, stressed that it was crucial tenant farmers played an active role in turning the plans to reality.

“I would ask that the National Trust work with their tenant farmers and key stakeholders such as the NFU on any key environmental management schemes which they might develop as a ‘whole estate approach’,” he said.

“This must be carried out at the beginning of the process. It is also important that any new management commitments are made clear to new tenants in their letting particulars.

“The National Trust must also be realistic and set appropriate rents as the farm businesses have to remain viable, profitable and sustainable.”

He added that it was “disappointing” the trust had not acknowledged the good work that farmers have been doing for many years in helping to protect and enhance the environment through the adoption of good practices as well as through participation in agri-environment schemes and initiatives such as the Campaign for the Farmed Environment.

“For this strategy to work, the partnership between the National Trust and its tenant farmers is ever more important,” he said.

NFU tenants national spokesman Chris Cardell
NFU tenants national spokesman Chris Cardell

A National Trust spokesman responded: “We want to work in partnership with our tenant farmers to help rebuild the health of our natural environment.

“That means finding ways of managing the land which are good for farmers, good for people and the good for the environment.

“Many farmers are already playing a leading role in looking after the long-term health of the land. But they need more support.

“We believe that healthy soils and effective land management which can capture and hold carbon, clean water, cut flood risk, and support wildlife-rich, beautiful landscapes are worth investing in, either through new commercial ventures or via public support.”

The National Trust’s 10-year strategy - Playing our part: what does the nation need from the National Trust in the 21st century? - considers everything from dealing with threats to nature to investing in the nation’s heritage through repairs to buildings and annual Heritage Open Days events.

Trust director general Helen Ghosh, said: “The protection of our natural environment and historic places over the past 100 years has been core to the work of the Trust but it has never been just about looking after our own places.

“This is a long-term commitment, for the benefit of generations to come.”

Chairman Tim Parker said: “Our strategy will see us working more corroboratively with a range of partners - we will support where we can and lead where we should.

“The National Trust has always responded to the challenges of the time. I believe our founders would be proud of our ambitions and the part we plan to play.”

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