National Trust to lobby on policy

The National Trust is setting up a 14-strong lobbying arm in a significant shift for the organisation. The Policy and Strategy Directorate is intended to strengthen the trust's capacity to influence environmental, rural, agricultural and transport policy.

The directorate is the result of an ongoing organisational review that was initiated by former director-general Martin Drury. The initiative is intended to deliver "a change in external focus and internal planning" and "reflects the growing importance of external working and networking with key decision-makers, opinion formers, and the media," said head of media Jason Tanner.

Tanner said that with 2,000 farming tenants, the trust wanted to play a leadership role in Whitehall's upcoming review of local government and the implementation of Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs agricultural policy.

Tony Burton, former deputy director of the Council for the Protection of Rural England, joined the National Trust last year as director of policy and strategy.

The trust is now looking for an assistant director of policy for communities and development, and two senior policy and campaigns officers to lobby on regional issues and on farming, environment and land use.

Other positions include eight regional policy officers, a policy and campaigns officer for environment and land use and a Welsh Affairs officer for communities and development.

Tanner admitted there was a "gap in the professional lobbying side" and that the organisation was "beefing up its messages". He added the trust is refining its line on the future of environment, transport and learning.

"That is going to help us in our core mission - to lobby government and opinion-formers," said Tanner.

Public affairs chiefs have been surprised by the size of the new lobbying division. Peter Bingle, managing director of the not-for-profit division of public relations group Bell Pottinger, said: "It is a massive use of the trust's in-house resources. It must indicate that government and opinion-formers are much more important to (the trust) than in the past."

Bingle added that with a department of that size likely to cost up to £500,000 a year, trust members would want to see a "dramatic change in the way government perceives it".

The public affairs offensive comes out of a far-reaching review of the trust's operations - the first since 1968 - that includes moving its headquarters from London to Swindon by next spring.

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