THE head of the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) has said that he is open to the idea of selling off non-visited heritage sites to be converted into hotels.
This comes after a cut in funding from the Scottish Natural Heritage, sparking the charity to look at ways to generate new income sources. While total public funding accounts for less than 10 per cent of income, NTS has seen a reduction in footfall to some remote site - some as few as one person per day.
By looking at a longer-term strategy, Simon Skinner, chief executive for NTS, is considering sites which are “too remote or in the wrong format to be visited”, and would allow for the sites to be taken in the same direction as Hutcheson’s Hall in Glasgow. The Trust would also consider working with commercial or other interests, such as communities, through long-leases and conservation agreements.
Mr Skinner said that he is hopeful that some developers would be interested in making offers on some disused building which are “wind and watertight”, but lying empty. The chief executive did say that he would only be open to these plans if they were “sympathetic” to the history of the building.
Under new plans for the NTS, the charity will concentrate funds on “priority” properties, such as Culzean Castle. This would mean that no new investments would be made in other properties - although would still continue to be funded at their current levels.
These priority properties, which currently include Culzean Castle and Country Park, Brodie Castle and Newhailes House, would see £17 million invested within the next four years, to try and increase footfall levels.
This would also mean that funding would be restricted across the more remote properties. Mr Skinner told The Times: “They are certainly not going to have any great level of investment in them but, to be frank, they are not getting it now anyway.
“Every other month I will get across my desk (a request) to take on a building or a piece of landscape and the sad reality is that unless it’s coming with a significant endowment to cover the running costs we are not in a position to take that on and we have to say no.”
It currently costs around £90 per minute to keep the Trust running.
A NTS spokesperson added that increasing footfall is a big priority.
“The additional annual income more members and visitors will generate, along with freed-up resources from ongoing efficiencies, will then be re-invested in the entire estate, so that all of our ‘inalienable’, visited properties will eventually benefit.
“We have estimated that we need to invest £47 million across our estate to deliver the standards of conservation we aspire to, and the new strategy is aimed at kick-starting the process and taking a serious bite out of that figure.”