Our Plan: November update

We remain fully committed to our mission to become a ‘testbed and model for a sustainable society’. Having spent the last few months re-assessing our financial future, understanding the hard lessons from an unsuccessful bond issue and with a new leadership structure in place, we are plotting a new course to address the Trust’s long-standing financial challenges. At the same time we are setting ourselves the target of becoming carbon neutral over the next five years.

Building on existing strengths, our new strategy is to focus on delivering a world-class learning programme, attracting audiences to year-round top quality arts and cultural events. We will also continue to actively encourage visitors and the local community to enjoy the rich heritage of the estate – including its historic buildings, Grade 2* listed gardens, Deer Park, woodlands and more. Alongside this we are committed to achieving a more sustainable future by fully understanding our current environmental impact; developing plans to reduce our carbon footprint and embedding those plans in the way we operate across the whole estate.

We want to be open about our financial position which is starkly illustrated by a current annual deficit of -£3 million equating to a loss of around £8,000 a day. The reasons why we are in this situation are long-standing – simply put they are the result of our combined activities over the years not covering costs. Over the coming months, we will tackle our financial situation in four key ways: by growing income; reducing spend; selling land and buildings as well as building homes and delivering new projects.

We are planning to grow income in a number of ways, for example by developing new learning opportunities and courses and expanding our events programme in order to reach more audiences. At the same time we will continue to work closely with our generous supporters and foster new philanthropic investment.

Across the organisation we are looking hard at ways to reduce day-to-day costs and to make sure that money is being spent on the right things. This will include a restructure of the people and resources needed to run the organisation and we are working closely with staff to shape these plans.

Earlier in the year, a handful of commercial properties – Webbers Yard, Lescaze Offices, Lower Tweed Mill – which were no longer central to our core vision were put up for sale. All three are now sold subject to contract. In September, having sold two off-estate residential properties, Trustees took the decision to explore with existing tenants the sale of some on-estate residential properties in Warren Lane and Park Road. In choosing to sell on-estate residential properties, our aim is to sell vacant properties and to sell to current tenants who have expressed an interest in buying their homes. Sales contracts will include a clause that requires the Trust to be given first-refusal should the owners of residential properties on the estate decide, in the future, to sell. We have also made the decision to sell the land in the parish that has been allocated for housing in the Joint Local Plan (JLP). Specifically, Broom Park Field and the field called Sawmills West (adjacent to the A385 on the edge of the village) will now be sold for development.

Reflecting a history of experimental house-building started by Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst which has shaped much of Dartington over the years, it remains the Trust’s intention to work with others to build homes that are inspiring, sustainable, socially inclusive and which demonstrate a new model for rural living. The Estate Framework, the subject of a new Joint Local Plan (JLP) policy, which we are working on with South Hams District Council and Historic England will guide our management of the core estate, balancing environmental and heritage sensitives with new development. When published, the Estate Framework will also allow us to build around 120 homes on the core estate. A draft version will be available for consultation in coming months. We are keen to discuss this and associated transport plans with everybody who has an interest in the future of the estate.

Over the last couple of years, many people have shared with us the complicated journey towards building homes at the Plantation and Paddock (Lane End). Ideas for this site have been plentiful, however the reality of developing viable proposals has been very challenging. We are revisiting proposals and looking at new ideas for this site which we would hope to take forward as a joint venture.

We continue to actively pursue grants and other external assistance in support of a number of projects including the Elmhirst Centre, for which we hope to secure funds from the National Lottery Heritage Fund – building on the success of the Deer Park Wall project.

In summary, our future plans are clear: to get ourselves on a much stronger financial footing and at the same time become carbon neutral by 2025.

There are a variety of ways of getting involved in our work including becoming a Dartington member. Click here to find out more.

Our financial position and history

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For the last two years, The Dartington Hall Trust has been rigorously pursuing its financial strategy, supporting the overall transformation of our estate. This strategy has seen the Trust invest in successful new facilities, teams and projects that will fuel the transformation of our estate, as well as vital maintenance work on key buildings of architectural and historical importance.

This crucial investment in our future has meant a short-term increased deficit, in line with our five year plan. In the next financial year (2019-2020) we will revert to a tightly controlled cost budget in order to see the planned reduction in the operating deficit.

We have recently received a gift of £2 million – the biggest single donation to Dartington in our history. Our focus now, is to build on this fantastic start to our fundraising activity, control costs, increase revenues from our already successful businesses and raise further finance in order to increase the overall scale of the operation. A quick look at the history of Dartington’s economic model, is a good way to illustrate our overall plan to return to profit.

How we will deliver our vision

Global learning programme

Pioneering and experimental education continues here today. The world-renowned Schumacher College is a model for ecology-centred education and sits alongside the Dartington School for Social Entrepreneurs and our Craft Revolution programme.

We plan to

expand the scale and impact of our holistic learning programme. We will create a multidisciplinary learning campus, surrounded by growing fields, social enterprises, arts initiatives and making spaces – all designed to enhance our ethos of ‘head, hands and heart’ learning.

Improved facilities will allow us to act as a hub and lab in a global network of progressive partners pioneering new models of higher education and lifelong learning across a range of subjects including the arts, design, ecology, horticulture, social justice and enterprise.

International gathering

We have the legacy and convening power to bring together local, national and international collaborators to participate in conversations, conferences, labs, debates and festivals that address the important questions and challenges of our time and experiment with new solutions.

We plan to

deliver a step change in our hospitality facilities (including our hotel, restaurant, café and shops) to align them with our vision of Dartington as a national and international destination.

progressive Experimental arts

Through the ongoing development of the Dartington International Summer School & Festival of Music and Barn Cinema, and new initiatives such as Dartington Live and our artists in residence programme, we aim to inspire people of all ages and backgrounds with extraordinary experiences and challenge the barriers to the arts that exist in our society.

We plan to

grow and develop a diverse arts programme that is of regional and national importance – showcasing the unique and transformative power of art to engage with the major issues of our time and build an open and sustainable society.

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