A rally cry to join forces with the National Trust and support its ambitious plans for growth to protect heritage, was the key message to 150 North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC) members by the National Trust’s Assistant Director, Operations, Robyn Brown.
Also speaking at the NECC Tyne and Wear AGM at the Assembly Rooms, Newcastle upon Tyne was Bill McGawley, Chairman, TDR, who was re-elected Chair, NECC, Tyne and Wear Committee. He reviewed the year and said the overall picture had been one of growth but there were still uncertainties and concerns in areas such as energy and the skills deficit. However he stressed the maximum potential of the region, global market opportunities and the desire to have improved connectivity to help businesses grow.
Following the official AGM formal business guest speaker, Robyn Brown, responsible for the Northern Region, outlined the Trust’s desire to become more responsive to opportunities presented by local communities and businesses.
She said: “Our vision for the next five years is to help create a healthier and more beautiful environment and encourage people to visit our wonderful landscapes. We want visitors to feel compelled to visit our sites, feel an emotional connection and return time and time again.”
Robyn Brown, speaking about the ‘experience economy’ said commercial income and diversification were becoming increasingly important to the Trust with glamping, cottages, camping and catering all valuable, fund-raising assets.
She explained over the next 10 years the Trust’s ambition was to spend around £1 billion nationally on conservation. Out of the extensive North East portfolio she painted a particularly vivid picture of Seaton Delaval Hall which is one of the organisation’s top 10 most significant properties as it still has so much of its original design.
Robyn Brown said: “Historically our country houses were part of the community and we want to see a return to that era. We want to attract new audiences with attractions like the pub at Gibside, which was developed as a result of an appeal from the local community. We are also exploring ways of working more closely with local authorities to use an endowment model to help fund parks and have already had success with this in Sheffield and are in discussions with Newcastle and Liverpool as well.”
In terms of numbers the National Trust has five national parks in its Northern region, with a turnover of £34m and over 800 full-time equivalent employees, supported by 1,000s of volunteers.