National Trust sees annual boost to visitor numbers, says climate crisis is its biggest threat

Image: Wimpole Estate Parkland National Trust Images

Climate change continues to be the biggest risk the organisation faces, with damage caused by extreme weather including Storm Arwen affecting Trust places across the UK

The National Trust has seen an uptick in membership numbers and visitors this year, following what it calls “one of the most challenging years on record”.

Its newly released annual report for 2021/22 shows memberships rose to 5.7 million, up from 5.4 million in 2020/21, but down from its high point of 5.9 million in February 2020.

The Trust reports it achieved £107.2 million in fundraising income and £280 million in Membership income.

The pandemic had led to a reduction in operating income of more than £200 million against its budget, it said, with “many difficult decisions” including cuts to both staff levels and activity.

These decisions, it said, have resulted in the Trust returning to “a strong financial position” and a return to growth in 2021-22.

“The operating margin was £177.5 million. All of this means that we are well placed to face the new challenges of higher inflation, the rising cost of living and wider economic performance,” it stated in the report.

While the pandemic is among the most important factors in recent turbulence to its operations, the Trust has said it is the climate emergency which poses the biggest threat to its future.

As a result of climate change featuring as the most significant risk on the National Trust risk register, the organisation has set climate action as one of two cross-cutting strategic priorities – the other being Everyone Welcome see page 6 of this report.

Harry Bowell, Director of Land and Nature at the Trust, said: ‘The nature and climate crises are now the most significant threats to our work. At the Trust we look after over 249,000 hectares of land and we are investing in a wide range of projects to improve our resilience to the effects of climate change by bolstering nature, including restoring peatlands, planting and establishing trees and creating new areas of wetland.

‘But it is not just the land that climate change impacts. From historic houses ever more at risk of damage from torrential rainfall and heat spikes, to protecting collections from increasingly damp and humid conditions, we have to consider the impact of climate change on everything we look after.”
The Trust has committed to reduce its carbon emissions from all of its activities, and to be carbon net zero by 2030.