A SAD MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT
It has become very evident that following our Press Release regarding the termination of our Agreement with the Muncaster Estate, many people, including WOT members and staff, supporters and regular visitors to the Centre, are finding it hard to comprehend exactly why this situation has come about. Let me therefore clarify the events which have led to our decision to leave Muncaster after 27 years of development as the world’s first and we believe, finest, owl conservation-breeding centre in existence.
When I began my Epilogue to our book ‘The World Owl Story’ in 1997 I wrote “What does the future hold for the World Owl Trust and all who believe in it? What will the next twenty-five years bring”? Little did I realise that on 6th November 2013 it would bring notice from Third Millennium Muncaster (TMM) that after 27 years of occupation as our headquarters they wished to “terminate the current agreement with the World Owl Trust’ and that “unless new arrangements can be negotiated, the World Owl Trust will cease to operate the World Owl Centre at Muncaster Castle no later than the 6th May 2015”. This came as something of a seismic shock for in that Agreement – insisted on by the Millennium Commission when the Estate received its 2.5 Million grant in February 1997 - we were given the assurance that “TMM/MVM (Muncaster Visitor Management) intend to provide the infrastructure to enable WOT to operate the WORLD OWL CENTRE on a financially viable basis until at least 5th November 2046”! It also went on to say “TMM/MVM must operate on site until the expiry of this agreement in 2046. The current owners of the site cannot sell Muncaster without the guaranteed presence on site of TMM/MVM until 2046. WOT’s position is therefore secure whoever owns Muncaster.
After meetings between the two chairmen failed to resolve the situation, on 9th December 2013 we received a second letter from the TMM/MVM Chairman Grahame Smith which stated that there was to be a business review of the Muncaster tourism businesses as a whole and that “WOT’s contribution is included in the review and although it is intended to maintain Bird Displays at Muncaster it has yet to be decided what is required in this area in the future and how it will be managed. In due course MVM will specify its requirements for the Bird Display and will decide whether or not to manage the activity in house or outsource following competitive bids”.
In our opinion and that of our legal advisors this decision is both insulting to the Trust and also contrary to the intent of the agreement without independent arbitration taking place. We have repeatedly asked for details of any new agreement they have in mind. This request has been completely ignored and despite Muncaster’s claims to the contrary in the Press and Media, no further negotiations have been offered.
It is therefore the World Owl Trust Board of Trustees decision that we have no future at Muncaster and regretfully we have no option but to move the World Owl Centre to a new site where we are wanted and where our conservation and education work, both global and national, can be continued and understood. We have been greatly heartened by the many offers of help and sympathy we have received and we are confident that like the Phoenix, the WOT will rise and prosper for many years to come, albeit at a different site. In the meantime we ask you to retain faith with us, and will in due course let you know where we will be located. We will still be at Muncaster for the coming season, so if you wish to see us before we move you have a year to do it. Please rest assured that while we are bloodied, we remain unbowed!
World Owl Trust
The Owl Centre
Cumbria. CA18 1RQ
Tel: (+44) (0)1229 717393
|World Owl Trust
Registered Charity Number: 1107529
Limited Company Number: 5296745
The World Owl Trust is a member of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) and the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums (EAZA). The Trust relies on a dedicated membership, visitors, donations and legacies.