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17 Nov 2023

Members meet online for 40th AGM

At our 40th Annual General Meeting (AGM), the Trust shared last year’s successes and achievements with Members and gave them a glimpse of exciting things to come.

2023 AGM main image

Around 130 Members joined us online, on Saturday 4 November, to hear the staff team and Trustees talk about the opportunities and challenges faced by the John Muir Trust.

After a five-month absence, the Trust’s Chair Jane Smallman was delighted to welcome back CEO David Balharry and said he would be making a phased return to work through to the end of this year. David thanked everyone for their support and said it was good to be back working with people committed to looking after wild places.

Staff reports

Head of Policy Mike Daniels looked back at 40 years of advocating for sustainable deer management. He highlighted progress being made and said the Clear on Deer film roadshow had been a useful way of talking about the issue with people around the UK and hoped that will bear fruit as further reforms come in the future.

The Trust’s new Regional Delivery Manager South, Gareth Morgan, gave an illustrated talk about the importance of conservation in cities and how to engage urban communities in their local wild places. And Director of Income Generation Adam Pinder talked about the challenges of fundraising and building membership in a challenging climate and thanked all our Members for supporting the Trust.

After these initial staff reports, Trustee Jane Smallman, Chair of the Trust, chaired our 40th Annual General Meeting. She explained the Trust has grown a lot over the past few years and the Board took the decision to delay the AGM to later in the year to reduce the pressure on financial reporting. The Board members will review the format of the 2024 AGM at their next meeting in December, recognising calls from some of the membership for a return to an in-person AGM.

2022 highlights

She talked about some of the highlights we achieved in 2022: we acquired a former fish hatchery at Strathaird on Skye, which - following a community consultation - we plan to develop the site as a hub for the area. We supported our partners at Langholm to manage a community buyout in two stages that will form the new Tarras Valley Nature Reserve. We planted thousands of trees at Glenlude, Schiehallion and Glenridding Common and our John Muir Award celebrated its 25th anniversary and delivery of half a million Awards across the UK. A redesign of the Award as part of the development of a new engagement strategy is underway to ensure it is fit for purpose for another 25 years.

Jane said the Trust’s financial affairs are in a healthy position. We have used some reserves to support land management activities and put in place improved technology, systems and processes to remain an effective organisation.

2023 highlights

Highlights in 2023 included the acquisition of a new site at Kylesku that provides an opportunity for inspirational engagement. Jane said we will operate the existing holiday lodges for at least two years to give ourselves time to scope the project while generating income. In the Lake District, we declined to tender for a new lease at Glenridding Common and while the door is open to further conversations about Glenridding Common, we also continue to work in the area with partners on the other side of Helvellyn at Thirlemere. We have taken on the management of the John Muir Way on a trial basis for a year and will investigate whether we take on this great opportunity for urban engagement permanently. Jane concluded by thanking staff, Trustees, Members and volunteers for their continued support of the Trust.

Convenor of the Finance Committee Jim Gibson said 2022 had been a better year than expected. Due to our prudence in previous years we are in a strong position to go forward. Summarising the 2022 outturn, he was content with the level of reserves because we are ambitious in our strategy and alert to the uncertainties of how the current economic situation will affect future giving.

Board of Trustees

Jane Smallman said there were four valid nominations for five vacancies, so no Trustee election was held. Mark Held and Carol White join our Board of Trustees, while Hermione Lamond and Jane were reappointed to the Board. In addition, we have co-opted two Trustees with specialist skills. She thanked the valued Trustees who were demitting office – Alan Dobie, Emily Henderson, Mary-Ann Ochota, Chris Loynes, Raymond Simpson, Jim Sloane, Andrew Whitfield and Sheila Wren, noting that departures in this instance covered an 18 month period with the change in the AGM date.

Before the open forum, attendees had the chance to hear from: our Regional Delivery Manager Rich Williams about exciting projects in the North region; our Policy Campaign Manager Thomas Widrow on our proposed Carbon Emissions Land Tax; and CEO David Balharry who re-affirmed the Trust’s strategy and the importance of engaging with a more diverse range of people to make wild places relevant to them.

Questions from Members

Throughout the meeting, Members had the chance to ask the staff team and Trustees questions. Read answers to the questions received before and during the meeting.

Jane Smallman closed the meeting by thanking everyone for their participation. She looks forward to seeing people in 2024 - hopefully face to face.


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