Board of Trustees’
A snapshot of 2016/17
The year’s external agenda was dominated by Brexit and the uncertainties it brings, not least for our tenant farmers
It is two years since the Trust launched its strategy Playing our part which describes our ambitions to 2025 and was designed to deliver our core purpose in ways relevant to the conservation challenges of today. Progress with implementation is excellent and we remain confident that it is addressing the major conservation challenges of today and tomorrow.
As the Chair and Director-General have explained, the Trust’s success in generating income determines its ability to invest in our core purpose – into the sorts of projects described in this report. We are, therefore, delighted to report that during 2016/17 what we call our Operating Margin (the proportion of our income that we are able to reinvest into our core purpose) exceeded £100 million for the first time ever. This is a remarkable achievement and one that will enable us to do even more in future.
Our investments during 2016/17 were, as always, primarily directed at conservation, both backlog repairs and improved presentation. A major project at The Vyne in Hampshire, launched during the year, provides examples of both including a new roof (complete with scaffold access for visitors) and the re-presentation of interiors which we are developing in partnership with three universities. Other examples are included in this report.
Partnership working was a recurrent theme during the year and will continue to be so, particularly with our ambition to improve the natural environment and in our work to help people look after the places where they live. The Chair and Director-General have described the importance of doing so in the outdoors as we begin to plan on a landscape scale. Partnerships are also important in urban environments. For example, towards the end of the year we announced our work with Newcastle City Council and others to look at how they might establish a community-led trust to manage the city’s parks. We’ve also acquired a lease with the Canal & River Trust on The Roundhouse in Birmingham – a Victorian municipal building which will become a base for walking, cycling and canoeing tours.
The year’s external agenda was dominated by Brexit and the uncertainties it brings, not least for our tenant farmers. As part of our strategic ambitions for nature, our message has been that any successor system to the Common Agricultural Policy must recognise farming practices that are good for nature as well as farm production. We will continue to pursue this message with the Government and other decision-makers.
Because so much of our land is devoted to agriculture, the practices of our tenant farmers are central to our ambitions. During the year we piloted new Estate Management Plans at a number of properties. New estate managers are working with our rangers, tenant farmers and other partners to develop approaches that support our ambitions for a healthier, more beautiful natural environment.
Last year we described the Trust’s major investment in the technology supporting our financial, membership and tills systems, and our on-line service to members. We are delighted to report that – bar some on-going work with tills – this work is complete. During the year we also invested more in the staff needed to look after our places. For example, following a major review we have almost doubled the number of curator roles to be employed by the Trust in 2017. You can read about this and our wider agenda of skills investment in this report. During the year we also launched the Trust’s first Research Strategy which describes our ambition to continue to deepen our knowledge to support the delivery of internationally renowned conservation.
We would like to join the Chair and Director-General in thanking everyone who made 2016/17 another year of success – our staff and volunteers, our members, donors, centres and associations, partners and other supporters. Everyone has truly played their part.