Chief Executive and Assistant Director of Operations, East of England, respond to my open letter.
With kind permission from the National Trust I am able to publish my emails from both Dame Fiona Reynolds and Justin Scully (Assistant Director of Operations, East England). Email contact between myself and the Trust is ongoing and these are the original responses, but so far little has changed. However, the possibility of a meeting between Samphire and Blickling Hall has been mentioned.
Dame Fiona Reynolds:
Dear Victoria Thank you for letting us know your concerns about the closure of the Samphire Shop. Whilst I understand your concerns, I apologise that I am unable to reply personally. I strongly believe that our local managers are the best placed and best informed to make the right decisions for the long-term sustainability of their property. I understand that Helen Bailey has replied to you already, as has Justin Scully and I do hope they have helped in explaining the reasons behind the decisions they have made. If you would like to discuss this further, I know that Helen would be more than happy to meet with you. With best wishes Dame Fiona Reynolds, DBE Director-General National Trust
Justin Scully, Head of East of England
I have been passed your correspondence to Helen Bailey regarding the decision not to
renew the lease on the Samphire shop on the Blickling Estate. I’m the Operations
Director for all of our properties in the East of England, and I felt it would be
useful if I offered some further comments if that would be helpful.
Please be assured that I am aware of the discussions that have been taking place
between our Blickling team and the Nethercotts. They have been going on for many
months and I understand that the lease was due to expire in May of last year and was
subsequently extended in order for more discussions regarding options for relocation
of the shop, amongst other things, to take place.
We are grateful for the efforts of Karen and Jeff over the past few years as our
tenants. Our decision not to renew their lease is in no way linked to our support
for local businesses and suppliers – indeed we invest over £1 million in the local
economy each year in the Region. We are also committed to supporting local food
sourcing and Samphire’s closure does not diminish that commitment. At Blickling we
source locally where possible for use in our restaurant and the pantry area of our
Helen feels strongly, and I agree with her, that we have a responsibility to respond
to the needs of our many thousands of customers and supporters who visit Blickling
from far and wide each year. We will not be replacing Samphire with a corporate copy
of a farm shop, nor will we try to take advantage of their success. We have felt
for many years that we are doing our visitors a disservice in this particular area
as people arrive. Our plans are to transform the welcome that members and
non-members, locals and holidaymakers receive. We also have to compete in an area of
Norfolk that has much to tempt people; whether they are looking for a day out or
somewhere to grab a coffee after walking the dog. If we don’t respond to their
needs then the chances are they will go elsewhere and the wonderful experience that
is Blickling may be at risk.
We believe in supporting the managers of our places to lead their teams effectively
and make responsible business decisions. We use an approach to decision-making that
covers financial, conservation and people considerations so please be reassured that
we are not all about the bottom line. We believe, from top to bottom in the Trust,
that our managers are the best placed and best informed to make the right decisions
for the long-term sustainability of their property, ensuring that generations still
to come can enjoy what we care for.
Thank you for contacting us with your concerns and I hope I have gone some way to
convincing you that we are just as passionate about food, communities and offering
the best experience that we can to as many people as we can.
If it would be helpful to have a chat about this further, do drop me an email or my
contact numbers are below, regards Justin
Assistant Director, Operations
The National Trust,
East of England Regional Office,