The chairman of the National Trust is to stand down after seven years, the charity has said, as it begins the search for his successor.
Tim Parker, who faced political opposition from government ministers over the trust’s examination of historical links between its properties and the UK’s legacy of slavery and colonialism, will leave the post in October.
The charity said he stayed on beyond his final term, which was due to end last year, to provide stability through the pandemic. Parker told trustees of his intention to step down the day after the National Trust’s houses reopened to the public on 17 May.
“The past 15 months, since the first Covid-19 lockdown, have been exceptionally challenging for everyone, including the National Trust,” he said.
“I thank everyone, not least the many thousands of volunteers, for their fantastic work during these difficult times and I am proud that, because of that work, we are now well on track for a full recovery and we can get on with our fundamental task, which is conservation work across our houses, landscapes and collections.
“It has been an immense privilege to serve the trust for seven years as chair and, as we emerge from the pandemic, the time is now right for the search to begin for my successor.”
The National Trust lost nearly 1,300 jobs last year as it sought to save £100m of annual costs as a result of the coronavirus crisis, which closed its historic houses, cafes, shops and even gardens and car parks at the height of lockdown. The chairmanship is a unpaid role.
The charity said it had restarted work on some of the major conservation projects that had to be suspended last year, and has returned to growth, recruiting more than 50,000 new members in April 2021.
Parker’s second term faced political interference from government ministers who opposed the National Trust’s decision to research the historical links between its properties and the UK’s involvement in the slave trade and colonial legacy.
The Charity Commission confirmed the trust had acted legally and responsibly at all times and would face no regulatory action.
According to the Daily Telegraph, Parker’s resignation was announced shortly after a motion expressing no confidence in his leadership. The motion was understood to have attracted the support of less than 1% of the National Trust’s membership.
Hilary McGrady, the director general of the National Trust, said: “We are deeply grateful for the time, energy and passion Tim has brought to the role of chair.
“Under his guidance our charity has grown in strength and capability. Its membership has grown from 4.2 million in 2014 to nearly 6 million at the start of the pandemic, and we have managed more than £900m-worth of conservation projects during Tim’s tenure.
“He leaves us in a strong position, despite the challenges the pandemic has brought.”
The appointment of Parker’s successor will be made by the National Trust Council.