The National Trust – How to Engage

What exactly are National Trust Assets?

The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty, commonly known as the National Trust, is a charity and membership organisation for heritage conservation in EnglandWales and Northern Ireland. In Scotland, there is a separate and independent National Trust for Scotland.

The National Trust is one of the largest private landowners in the United Kingdom. The trust’s landholdings cover nearly 1.5% of the total landmass of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. A large part of this consists of parks and agricultural estates attached to country houses, but there are many countryside properties that were acquired specifically for their scenic or scientific value. Separately, National Trust for Scotland assets cover approximately 1% of all the land in Scotland.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Trust owns over 248,000 hectares (610,000 acres; 2,480 km2; 960 sq mi) of land and 780 miles of coast. Its properties include over 500 historic houses, 149 gardens, castles coastline, forests, woods, fens, beaches, farmland, moorland, islands, archaeological remains, nature reserves, villages, historic houses, mills and pubs. The National Trust is responsible for restoring, protecting them and making them accessible for considered use.

Separately, the National Trust for Scotland own and manage over 10,000 miles of Scottish coastline, 76,000 hectares of countryside, 46 majestic munros, over 90 historic homes and 35 gardens.

The National Trust’s influence also extends to assets they do not own. In Scotland, the National Trust for Scotland has special rights of conservancy for 400 sites that they do not own. Whilst in England the trust owns or has covenants over about a quarter of the Lake District; it has similar control over about 12% of the Peak District National Park (e.g. South Peak Estate and High Peak Estate). It owns or protects roughly one-fifth of the coastline in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and has a long-term campaign, Project Neptune, which seeks to acquire more.

Most of the National Trust’s properties with the United Kingdom are open to the public for a charge (members have free entry), while open spaces are free to all subject to observation of National Trust Byelaws.

National Trust countryside property is designated at many levels including National Parks, AONBs (Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and SSSIs (Sites of Special Scientific Interest). The Trust also owns and manages 149 registered gardens of special historic interest

Can I Fly there?

In principle yes. It’s stronger, and more flexible, yes in Scotland than in England, Wales and Scotland where the following progressive Drone Access Policy has been recently installed by National Trust Scotland in relation to their assets.

“Before flying drones or unmanned aerial vehicles, you’ll need permission from the manager of the relevant Trust place. We also ask that you have the appropriate public liability insurance in place before making the approach.  

If you’re planning to bring your drone to a Trust place, always seek permission from the property team in advance and make sure that you follow any advice about areas where you cannot fly. There may be areas where drones are not allowed at certain times of the year, particularly during breeding seasons for some wildlife. These rules are in place to keep wildlife safe.” Source:

The National Trust in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have a catch-all policy, underpinned by a byelaw, requiring landowner permission to fly from their land.

In general terms the standard position for most National Trusts Land Assets (or land where the National Trust has a conservation interest) is currently described in the National Trust’s catch-all policy allowing exceptions, at the discretion of the National Trust, for PFCO holders, contractors and filming briefs. Learn more about the National Trust’s Catch-All Standard Drone Access Policy (England, Wales & Northern Ireland).

However, if you are a hobbyist, or don’t meet the requirements of the standard policy, there’s hope; there are some local exceptions, tips to engage and ways to fly responsibly to help you secure permission to fly from, or adjacent to, National Trust assets in England, Wales and Northern Ireland – see the ‘How does DronePrep help’ section later in this resources post to find out how.

In all circumstances pilots do need to consult with the landowner and the relevant conservation agency (see SSSI resources post) to ensure that flights can be undertaken in a way that does not endanger wildlife or habitats.

You can find out where SSSI’s and National Trust Assets overlap within the DronePrep Map. If there is a SSSI interaction within your proposed National Trust flight owners then the National Trust and pilot should engage with the relevant conservation agencies for sites in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to define flight permission.

Why is it necessary to engage with the National Trust when flying from or near their assets?

The National Trust’s are not for profit custodians of some of the UK’s greatest locations; their primary objective is to restore, protect and make the special places they own accessible for considered use by the public. The Trust depends on income from grantors, donations, legacies and the gate receipts of the 26million tourists which they attract each year to their public destinations to fulfil this brief so that they can add more special places to their portfolio for all of us to enjoy for years to come.

In securing public access to their assets the National Trust have to balance the needs of different site users whilst maintaining a duty of care to land tenants, leaseholders, staff, visitors and the public.

The National Trust assets have existing interactions with airspace, some sites are located within FRZs (see FRZ post) and many of the larger National Trust sites have extant permissions to accommodate ad hoc Helicopter landings or host Hot Air Balloon events.

As is the case with all landowners, the National Trust, in certain circumstances can be liable for incidents that occur on their land and there will be times when other activities, and factors, are deemed a higher priority to the landowner than allowing access for drone sites.

In permitting drone use on-site National Trust managers need to consider the risk and liability of a potential drone incident, any perceived nuisance or privacy interactions a drone flight could be deemed to have with visitors, the public, existing event activity, or tenants which they may be liable for. As conservators the National Trust Estate Managers who permit drone use also consider SSSI interactions before agreeing on access (see SSSI post), FRZ/Heliport Interactions and any perceived detrimental impact of drone use may have on visitor numbers/charity income.

However, via consultation with your local National Trust Estate Manager and/or by the means of good #droneprep with neighbouring landowners it should be possible to plan a safe flight that does not fall foul of the bye-law, National Trust Drone Access Policy or other interactions.

How does DronePrep help?

DronePrep has mapped all National Trust Land in England, Wales and Northern Ireland within the DronePrep Map.

Some National Trust sites involve multiple ownership stakeholders (for example the National Trust 6th most visited site Waddesdon Manor in Aylesbury which is leased by the Rothchild Estate). Where this occurs it is common for the leaseholder to have a say in the local Drone Access Policy is managed and this is where exceptions to the standard National Trust Drone Access policy tend to occur at the local level.

DronePrep have crunched the data and can confirm that 54% of all the Freehold Land owned by the National Trust in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is leased to another landowner – thus there is plenty of opportunities to reach out to your local National Trust estate manager to see if their local Drone Access Policy can be amended to cater for your flight.

Find out where your local National Trust sites are by using the DronePrep map and use the land parcel information to do a deeper dive into to find out contact details of each site and whether it one which may permit access under a localised drone access policy.

Crown Estate Foreshore


Terms and Conditions for the operation of unmanned aerial devices (UAD) on The Crown Estate Foreshore and Estuaries

Persons wishing to operate unmanned aerial devices (UAD) on our foreshore are granted a permissive right from The Crown Estate; this permissive right does not apply to the seabed or river beds or any other Crown Estate land. The permissive right is also subject to operators adhering to the CAA code of practice, as well as our terms and conditions.

1. Subject to the clauses below, The Crown Estate Commissioners (the Commissioners) permit UAD operators (the Operators) in common with The Crown Estate, the Commissioners and all others authorised by them to enter such Foreshore (as defined below) and such tidal estuaries as are open to the public and belong to Her Majesty in Right of the Crown (excluding under the circumstances specified at clause 8 below) (the Crown Foreshore and Estuaries) for the purpose of operating UADs.

2. On occasions third parties may restrict the operation of UADs on Crown Estate land. For example if the foreshore is within a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) or a Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) then the relevant authority may object to certain activities, and so access may be restricted. We expect Operators operating on our foreshore to be sensitive to environmental designations and if necessary obtain any additional consent’s. The relevant authority will be Natural England, Natural Resources Wales or the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.

Local authorities also have the power to ban the operation of UADs and other activities through the use of byelaws and we would therefore recommend checking with the appropriate authority to ensure that no such ban is in place.

3. The Foreshore is tidal land intermittently covered by the sea between Mean High Water (“MHW”) and Mean Low Water (“MLW”). MHW is the High Water Mark of medium high tides and MLW is the corresponding Low Water Mark.

4. The consent given in clause 1 is subject to the Operators complying with all applicable laws, statutes, regulations and codes from time to time in force, and obtaining all consents necessary for the operation of UADs.

5. The Operators acknowledge that:
i. no relationship of landlord and tenant is created by this arrangement;
ii. the Commissioners retain control, possession and management of the Crown Foreshore and Estuaries and the Operators have no right to exclude the Commissioners or any other party from the Crown Foreshore and Estuaries; and
iii. the Operators do not rely on, and shall have no remedies in respect of, any representation or warranty (whether made innocently or negligently) that may have been made by or on behalf of the Commissioners.

6. The Commissioners give no warranty that the Crown Foreshore and Estuaries are in a safe condition and fit for the use specified in clause 1, and the Operators use the Crown Foreshore and Estuaries at their sole risk.

7. The Crown Estate, the Commissioners, staff and agents shall not be held liable for any loss or damages or expenses of any kind (direct, indirect or consequential) in connection with the use of the UADs on the Crown Foreshore and Estuaries.

8. Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions, the Operators shall not be permitted to operate UADs:
(a) anywhere on the Crown Foreshore and Estuaries during the hours of darkness; or
(b) anywhere within the Windsor Estate at any time whatsoever; or
(c) weighing more than 20kg.
(d) for commercial purposes including, but not limited to, filming and surveying purposes

9. The Crown Estate may restrict or prohibit access to any part of its foreshore at any time without notice

SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest)

Can I Fly There?

In principle yes, but before you do it is mandatory to consult with the landowner and the relevant conservation agency to ensure that flights can be undertaken in a way that does not endanger wildlife or habitats.

You can find who owns an SSSI site on the DronePrep map – REGISTER HERE

Thereafter, pilots and landowners should engage with the relevant conservation agencies for sites in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to define flight permission.


What is an SSSI?

Also known as an ASSI (Areas of Special Scientific Interest) in Northern Ireland.

SSSIs are designated under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 where they support habitats and/or species of national importance.

Usually, it is an area that’s of particular interest to science due to the rare species of fauna or flora it contains – or even important geological or physiological features that may lie in its boundaries.

The natural wildlife and geological features of SSSI’s are irreplaceable parts of national heritage. These are protected in order to preserve their importance and to prevent damage and development.

An SSSI can be designated to give higher levels of protection than other designations. This offers more security than other designations – like Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) for example.

This status means owners must manage the site appropriately to conserve its special features. (1)

‘Penalties that can be imposed for criminal offences in respect of a single bird, nest or egg contrary to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 is an unlimited fine, up to six months imprisonment or both.’ (2)

How many SSSIs are there?

The UK has thousands of these important sites. (1)

  • England has over 4,100 sites covering more than 4,200 square miles. Over half of this area is internationally important for wildlife.
  • Scotland has far fewer SSSIs – just over 1,400 – but the area they cover isn’t far behind England. More than 3,900 square miles of SSSIs is over 12% of the country’s land area!
  • Wales has about 1,000 SSSIs, covering some 12% of the nation’s land area.
  • Northern Ireland has around 400 ASSIs which account for more than 8% of the landscape.

And we’ve mapped all of them…

Find them on the Droneprep map

Why do we need to consider SSSIs when flying?

In SSSIs, certain activities are prohibited under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 and there are legal duties concerning how these areas should be managed and protected by landowners, this also extends to how landowners can permit access to their land for drone flight.

At certain times of the year, different habitats can attract and sustain protected wildlife/bird populations; an activity that is deemed to disturb or interfere with protected wildlife/birds by the relevant conservation agency under the provisions of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 can result in a significant financial penalty or custodial sentence for either a drone pilot or landowner.

There are particular sensitivities between drone use and the most at risk UK bird species listed under Schedule 1 of the Act during each of their respective nesting seasons where non-considerate flying has the potential to impact habitats and birdlife populations negatively.

However, via consultation with the landowner and the relevant conservation agency, it is possible to understand when the nesting periods for respective endangered species are and how to plan a flight that does not negatively impact them.

The RSPB details further information about protected species here:

Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 – The RSPB

How does DronePrep help?

We are onboarding landowners to the DronePrep platform. In doing so, we create specific drone access policies for each location that take into consideration a variety of factors, including SSSIs.

If you know of any landowner whose land, estate or farm forms part of an SSSI, we’d be happy to assist and answer any questions that they may have.


Richmond Park Flying Field

Flying drones in Richmond Park

Richmond Park has a designated flying zone – the Richmond Park Flying Field.

The Royal Parks and Metropolitan Police have produced the following Flying Guide:

Model Aircraft and Drone Flying

The designated area for the flying of model aircraft and drones is a circle of radius approximately 75m from this notice or 250m in a line, if flown in a south westerly direction from this notice

Powered model aircraft and drones must not exceed a wingspan of 1m.

Model gliders must not exceed a wingspan of 4m

Powered aircraft and drones may not be flown after 13.00 hours on weekends or bank holidays

Persons flying any aircraft must be insured against third party risks in respect of the model aircraft, drone or glider and the insurance policy must be endorsed as to indemnify The Royal Parks

Model aircraft, drones or gliders may not be flown at a height above 100m

Competitive flying, launching of balloons or rockets is not permitted

Flying must cease if deer are present in the flying area

By order of the Secretary of State

The Flying Field is shown on The DronePrep Map.

Check out the Map


For more information including Richmond Park’s drone access policy, click on this link: