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 www.Rhostyllen.com.