I recently spent a couple of hours at Benjamin Disraeli’s home, Hughenden Manor, at the southern end of my constituency catching up with the National Trust about they're doing in Buckinghamshire and the Chiltern Hills.
In our area, the Trust is responsible for a clutch of historic houses : Hughenden, Waddesdon, Claydon and Ascott. It's the landlord of important local businesses: Hartwell House hotel and the Kings Head pub in Aylesbury's market square. The trust owns some of the most important Chilterns landscapes, including Coombe Hill, Pulpit Hill (next to Chequers) and Bradenham and Naphill Commons, and protects other areas including at Little Hampden through covenants.
So the NT is an important voice both nationally and locally in debates about development, planning and conservation.
At Hughenden we talked, unsurprisingly, about HS2. I was glad to hear that the Trust is talking almost weekly to HS2 Ltd and its contractors about how to mitigate the scheme’s environmental impact. My impression from constituency casework is that while HS2 has learned some of the lessons from its early, abysmal communications with local communities, and has raised its game, there is still some way to go before there is a real culture of being open with residents about the development of detailed plans.
The conversation with the Trust moved on to the future of the Oxford to Cambridge arc and the implications that carries for housing and infrastructure in Bucks.
We all know that there's going to be a lot more housing. That means bigger urban populations, mostly people with small or no gardens, who need green spaces both for recreation and for a refuge from the often hectic pace of urban life.
I think how to strike the right balance between the competing needs for, on the one hand, accessibility and recreation and, on the other, tranquillity and conservation is a key challenge facing the National Trust and other countryside organisations.
The Trust told me they were keen to work with others- local authorities, farmers and landowners- to to get that balance right. I’ll certainly support them in that endeavour.