Daniel Kawczynski, Conservative MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham, has written a letter to the National Trust, warning it against becoming too political. Kawczynski writes:
I am very concerned by the Trust's current political campaign on planning reforms. I am especially worried that the Trust’s behaviour runs the risk of causing long term damage to the organisation.
The Trust's responsibilities are set out clearly in Section 4 of the 1907 Act. It was established to promote the permanent preservation of land and buildings of beauty or historic interest. This is a statutory definition of your role. I cannot imagine that Parliament, at that time, thought the National Trust should become the leader of a national lobby on planning policy.
Whilst I accept the Trust has a right to comment on how the reforms may impact on areas of outstanding natural beauty, conservation areas, listed buildings or similar, you seem to be treating the whole of the "open" countryside as being lands of beauty. This is patently incorrect. I am concerned there is a danger that the Trust, as currently managed, could have stretched the interpretation of your statutory purpose to breaking point – leading to serious questions being asked about the Trust's activities.
I am also worried that your web site only offers your members the opportunity to sign your petition. In the interests of balance, I believe the Trust should provide the opportunity for members to disagree with your position. Would it not be a good idea to offer your own members the opportunity to express their views to the Trust Council and the Director-General?
Many constituents, who are members of the Trust, have written to me to highlight their concerns about your approach to political lobbying and I sincerely hope you will reconsider your stance before irreparable damage is done to the credibility of your organisation.
Daniel Kawczynski MP