TA & the NT. An Open Letter.

Dear National Trust

On my recent visit to Hardwick Hall I wanted to get a photograph that included both the shell of the old hall and the Elizabethan structure that superseded it, but of course the topography of the site, combined with the plentiful trees makes that virtually impossible from the ground. Which is why I found a space at the edge of the car park, away from both buildings and people to launch my drone.

Not long afterwards one of the Trust volunteers appeared to ask if I was flying a drone which of course I confirmed. Her response was to demand that I return it and land immediately, informing me that drone flight was not permitted on any Trust property and that it was stated as such on their website. I had broken the rules and was treated accordingly.

A subtle deterrent to getting comfortable

I explained to her that I was already returning to land but she stayed to make sure the transgressor kept to his word. As I’d already explored the halls and grounds on foot I packed and left. Though the Trust are good at indicating areas where photography is not permitted in buildings, or seating that must not be used to aid in its preservation, there had been nothing to alert me to this ruling, so that evening I visited your website. Again the message was clear that permission for drone flights over properties would not be granted and a list of reasons was given. Reasons which were exaggerated to justify your case, for example:

National Trust: “CAA regulations state that drones should not be flown above or near to people. As our properties often have staff living or working on site, visitors present or have open access, unauthorised drone flying is both illegal and potentially puts people at risk.”

CAA graphic

CAA: stay 150ft (50m) away from people and property.

Now I get it.  The Trust’s prime objective is “to promote and look after places of historic beauty permanently for the benefit of the nation across England, Wales and Northern Island. Our core purpose is to look after special places for ever, for everyone.”   You are concerned that a drone hitting one of your properties would cause irreparable damage or serious injury to an employee or visitor, yet risk assessments have found that the size and weight of drones generally used by the public make this extremely unlikely (especially when flying with rotor guards as I was doing).  Add in the fact that they aren’t cheap so the pilot is no more likely to want that to happen either.

But of course a small risk can be completely removed with a blanket ban, and it’s your right to do so.  I’d just like to think that in this day and age you may be a bit more polite and adult in the way you do so.   Perhaps you should read Eric Berne or Thomas Harris on Transactional Analysis.  The “Controlling Parent” attitude you display may well produce a “Rebellious Child”. 

Oh, and a final thought.  Perhaps an article on your magazine, or more prominent signposting on your vast website might have saved me from my ignorance.