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Country News - 2003

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Conservation bodies clash

Wednesday 30 April 2003

A VICIOUS war of words has broken out between two of Britain's oldest conservation bodies.

They are the National Trust (founded 1895) and the even older but lesser known Open Spaces Society, founded in 1865 to protect public access to footpaths, commons and open moorland.

Last week, the National Trust had a lengthy meeting to make basic changes to its constitution which, it says, will improve its operating efficiency.

These included setting up a smaller governing body instead of the 52-strong board of trustees and raising the number of signatures needed to raise a vote at the trust's AGM from ten to 200.

This has enraged the Open Spaces Society - which is one of the trustees and claims to have founded the trust - and today it issued a statement saying that ordinary members were being "gagged" and that the new governing body would be a "scullery cabinet."

In recent years, the two bodies have grown further part in their policies. The trust remains largely conservative whilst the society has become much more militant - it is, for instance, a highly vocal supporter of the "right to roam" movement.

However, the society's claim to have founded the trust will be received with raised eyebrows in the Lake District, where it is widely accepted that the children's author Beatrix Potter founded the National Trust with a gift of land.


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