Wednesday, 30 December 2009

National Trust's desperate bid to save face

by Cllr Carrie Harper

Youtube is currently showing this video about the National Trust's Erddig development near Wrecsam. The Trust proposes to build 223 houses on green space opposite the village of Rhostyllen. Only 55 of these houses will be affordable for local people and the new village has already been advertised by the Trust's agents as being in Rhostyllen, Cheshire.

Looking at this video and various updates to their website, it seems the Trust is desperate to regain credibility after overwhelming opposition to this new estate.
A referendum in Rhostyllen saw local people vote against the development by 2:1, it also saw a vote of no confidence in the community council at the time, chaired by a Mr John Droog, who also bravely stars in this latest PR epic.
To add insult to injury, 14,000 of the National Trust's members voted against the plan at the last annual general meeting. They would have won the vote too, had the then chairman Sir William Proby not waded in with an 8,000-strong block vote to prevent the motion from going through. The block vote is an odd interpretation of what most of us know as the democratic process and is deployed every year by the Chairman to ensure members are kept in line.

Obviously the National Trust doesn't mention the referendum or the AGM in this pretentious production. Nor do they mention several other important points, such as the fact that Erddig is the only National Trust property in the UK not to receive a penny from the Trust's annual operating budget of £350 million, or that admission fees, events and rents etc actually cover the day-to-day running cost of the house and the estate.
Trust bosses also don't mention their intention to sell off other parts of the estate - which was given to them in the 1970s by Philip Yorke - in the future for further development. The money they want from the planned new village is apparently for repairs that may or may not be needed in the future, but when I met them they couldn't give details as to what this money would be for or when it would be needed. They also couldn't justify the fact that the Trust's board refuses to commit any of their own substantial operating budget to the property, an estate that has been self-financing for the past 30 years.

My experience of the National Trust has been a huge disappointment. I expected to meet an ethical, responsible organisation committed to the environment, sustainability and to local communities.
Instead what I encountered was a self-important snobbish developer, ignorant of its original aims and hypocritical in the extreme. Watching this video I wonder what the Trust's founder Octavia Hill would make of the current organisation's behaviour. The National Trust's motto is 'Forever, for everyone' but, as this video shows, it seems in the 21st century you have to read the small print as far as the Trust is concerned.
With the latest Trust chairman Simon Jenkins describing Wrexham as "a dejected and desolate town", it looks as though their attitude isn't set to improve anytime soon.
The Trust's reputation has no doubt taken a hit because of local people from the 'dejected and desolate' town. No amount of violins can disguise the fact that this development is not for local people, is not sustainable and is not needed by anyone other than the National Trust, or should I say 'The National Dis-Trust' as described by our very own Squire of Erddig Philip Yorke.

For more information about the campaign against the Erddig development please visit


Anonymous said...

It's a shocking story of moral corruption, greed, dishonesty and treating people like shit. I have already resigned my membership of the NT, but am lost as to what else we can do. I don't live in Wrecsam but in NW Wales, and I'd be happy to do what I could.
Letters to the national papers where Mr Jenkins pontificates on everything from politics to the environment? He's actually a reasonable man.

Plaid Queensway said...

I don't know much about Simon Jenkins but if he were a reasonable man, I would have hoped this development would have been stopped in its tracks some time ago.

The National Trust already have planning permission but they also have a lot of angry members (and ex members) because of this development, a few letters into the press would certainly be a welcome reminder for them.

With the downturn in the housing market and the level of 106 contributions they commited to, I have to wonder if the new village is even viable for them now. It obviously isn't set to make the profits they want at the moment as not one brick has been laid.

Anonymous said...

If things were that rosy in Wales why did Iwan Huws resign...or was he pushed? Where is Iwan Huws now anyway?

Anonymous said...

Simon Jenkins won't be any different from Proby. He says the right words but actions are different. He is just part of the stinking establishment which makes up the National Trust's Board and Trustees.

Pelagius said...

What a disgusting story. Smells a lot.

Presumably "National" means England. Does it get funding from our government? Who is their paid lobbyist in Cardiff Bay?

Looks like the days of the Raj are not yet over.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't it nice to hear John Droog again, he nearly sounded sensible and rational, that must have been an extraordinary effort on his part.

Anonymous said...

Surprised that that populist local Councillor Mark Pritchard doesn't feature on the video, he's normally pretty good at self promotion, especially as his best mate Droog is on there.

Avril said...

For Plaid Whitegate and Queensway - surely an extra 50 affordable homes is better than none?

Is it not hypocritical to be inconsistent?

Plaid Whitegate said...

If you're satisfied with crumbs from the top table, 55 homes will suit you.
But without the campaign and the protest, the National Trust wouldn't even have delivered 25% affordable homes.
Plaid has argued for a greater percentage of affordable housing in all new housing developments because the logic of building homes that are beyond the pocket of local people is unsustainable.
Would "Avril" be happy to accept 75% unaffordable homes in her community?

Plaid Queensway said...

So are you suggesting that in order for people in Wrecsam to have the basics in life, i.e a home, they must accept these large commuter estates and everything else that comes with them? Do you think that's sustainable? Do you think that's ethical even? Do you think that's conducive to community cohesion or to local identity?

Paul Rogers said...

A range of affordable housing is needed across Wrexham ranging from accomodation for young and old people however the fact is there needs to be a balancing act to be had between encouraging developments, preserving our communities and heritage whilst also providing opportunity for local residents to be able to afford housing in the own community.

Plaid Whitegate said...

But when it comes to the crunch, Paul, do you support (a) the current policy of 25% - which has seen a huge rise in unaffordable housing in the borough and developers finding loopholes;
(b) a higher percentage to enable the local housing market to stabilise after a decade of over-development or
(c) would you prefer to rely on the free market delivering what it sees fit?

Paul Rogers said...

The three proposals put forward are not absolute - there needs to be a mixture, the housing crisis in Wales at the moment could be addressed via a number of measures.

I would support a small increase in the percentage of affordable homes however the fact is we are in recession, developments need to be viable and by imposing over ambitious percentages we could end up in a situation where developers opt for much smaller developments which do not provide desirable amounts of affordable housing.

We must not forget the role of the Welsh Assembly Government and the Council in providing affordable housing - it cannot be left to the free market.

Plaid Whitegate said...

Agreed, the council and WAG has a big role to play because developers will not meet local need (if they did, we wouldn't have a housing crisis and an oversupply of luxury 4-beds plus blocks of empty apartments).
Developers build for maximum profit. That includes building the minimum amount of affordable homes, contributing as little as possible to our schools and roads because it reduces their profits.
Even Wrecsam's very modest 25% affordability is now coming under attack as some developers try to wriggle out of their commitment to contribute to the infrastructure.

Plaid Whitegate said...

sounds like Paul Rogers doesnt want to upset the Tories friends in big business. People who cant afford these new houses in Brymbo, Paul, where do they go?

Plaid Queensway said...

This is very straight forward as far as I'm concerned, given the acknowledged over development of the borough and the damage that's come with it, whatever we build should be based on local need. Anything else quite simply is not needed and as we have seen causes a great deal of damage to communities in a plethora of different ways. How do you propose to 'preserve our communities and heritage' by continuing with these unsustainable developments? Or with ' a small increase' in the affordable housing threshold'? Affordable housing has been viable for thousands of years, what your quoting is spin given out by planning officers and developers. It's wearing a bit thin, what your supporting is actually wiping out the Welsh identity of the area, if you want proof of that check out the latest Labour Force survey figures on Welsh identity in the North East - Flintshire 38%, Wrecsam 61%, Denbighshire 48%, all showing a downward spiral. Developers are actually designing society regardless of the consequences with local councils and WAG enforcing artificial rules, regulations and processes to prevent local houses being built.

It's time we all start to see the bigger picture and think outside the box, the consequences of not doing so do not bear thinking about.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Plaid Queensway. As well as securing affordable homes for locals from a Welsh nationalist perspective the other key concern, regardless, is to stop the further colonisation of Wales by in-migrants. In advertising the development as in "Cheshire" the estate agents have already spoken volumes: England is seen as superior by the target market. They will be mainly new voters with an English identity voting for the London parties.