As a charity we have always approached decision making with a long-term view while being ambitious, pragmatic and entrepreneurial. With 35 years practical experience and knowledge as a foundation, this plan is developed using that valuable resource but also considering current trends and changes affecting our portfolio of activities. What follows continues to demonstrate ambition and realism in all we do.
Following the original launch of this Plan in February 2020, the COVID-19 global pandemic has fundamentally changed our operating environment and the Board of Management felt it appropriate to recognise this, revisit and republish this document to reflect our revised ambitions and goals over the coming four years.
Whilst COVID-19 has altered our operating environment, the Trust’s strategy and broad ambition remains largely unaltered. The strategy outlined in this document is based on evolution not revolution and has a central supporting theme underlying larger proposals that will engage everyone involved with the Historic Dockyard. This is best summed up as a constant striving for improvement. “1,000 small improvements that collectively make a big impact”.
At the point of publishing the original Corporate Plan 2020-25, the Trust had reached a pivotal point in its lifecycle – for the first time it was in a position of achieving its charitable objectives through choice of direction rather than direction being dictated by need (i.e. the need to repair key buildings on site). Support from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Medway Council, Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF), along with many other stakeholders and funders, had enabled the Trust to reach this position of choice.
The impact of COVID-19 has been significant. The Trust will need to balance its ambitions carefully over the coming years to ensure this resilience is maintained, enabling the Trust to continue to prioritise choices based on long-term benefit not short-term gain.
“Chatham’s Fitted Rigging House Project is a perfect example of how we can make our heritage buildings work in the modern world. As communities change, often these buildings struggle to meet our needs and fall into disrepair. This project is a blueprint for how to utilise our historic sites, so they can be preserved for generations to come.”
Trustees had already taken the opportunity to pause briefly in terms of capital development of the Historic Dockyard site, in the knowledge that the most urgent capital projects have now been effectively completed – although Trustees recognise there is still much more to be done if the Historic Dockyard is to maintain standards of preservation, reach its audiences and market potential. This has given time to review how we, as a 21st Century charity, can best meet our charitable objectives going into the long-term future whilst also acknowledging the challenging operating environment that lies ahead. With this in mind, the Trustees continue to ask a fundamental question – where do we want to be in 25 years’ time?
In answering this question, the Trust has aimed to develop:
Throughout this process, the Trust has always been mindful of ensuring that a culture of entrepreneurship is maintained – it is, after all, this culture that has enabled the Trust to self-finance its basic operational needs to deliver preservation and learning at today’s levels – a remarkable achievement considering the scale of the challenge faced back in 1984. Our approach is unparalleled elsewhere in the UK and our success reflects a long-term and little changed strategy that has evolved to meet changing circumstances. In developing the next stages of work for the organisation, the Trust is taking great care to ensure that immediate goals set in this Corporate Plan do not harm or obstruct achievement of the long-term vision.
In developing this vision, the Trust commissioned external consultants to specifically address how best we might meet our Educational charitable objective – delivered principally through visits to the site and its galleries. This work has led to a renewed focus on attracting more family visitors and looking to the future to deliver increased digital and outreach activities.
Whilst the Trust has spent a considerable amount of time reviewing how best to meet this objective, the preservation of the Historic Dockyard site, the most complete dockyard of the age of sail in the world, remains of crucial importance. Within this Corporate Plan, “preservation through re-use” remains the way we will meet this objective. The plan ensures that preservation and education objectives are always in harmony ensuring the unique balance of uses across the site are central to the development process.
In developing this plan, places such as the Historic Dockyard have an important role to play in supporting an inclusive, diverse and equal society. The Trust is committed to ensuring that our Governance, leadership, and teams at all levels are representative of the communities and audiences which we serve as a charity. We acknowledge that we are at the start of this process and have more to do as we strive to embed a culture of diversity and inclusivity in all aspects of our work.
It is also clear that climate change remains the single greatest challenge that we will face over the coming 25 years. Careful consideration has also been given to ensuring that our organisation is aware of its environmental impact and develops a robust approach to reducing this, whilst always recognising the significant challenges with a 400-year-old historic estate.
Finally, we have engaged with our key stakeholders to ensure that we can work together to promote success across all our shared strategic initiatives. This Corporate Plan recognises strategic and operational development locally and regionally together with the opportunities that will arise. It aligns with strategic objectives of a number of key stakeholders, including the University of Kent, Medway Council and key funders. In particular, this plan has been written with a number of strategic initiatives in mind, namely:
This plan also recognises regional strategic opportunities such as the Lower Thames Crossing and other initiatives across the wider Kent area, the South East and nationally which could impact. It is also mindful of wider developments in the visitor attraction market locally and regionally that provide opportunity for market growth – with the development of the London Resort being key to this.
We commit to remaining entrepreneurial, dynamic, ambitious and progressive within the context of excellence and balance of use in all we do to the benefit of those engaging with this amazing place. We have a clear ambition to be an organisation that emerges from a global pandemic both financially resilient and with a focus on the delivery of our charitable objectives.
Admiral Sir Trevor Soar KCB OBE DL Chairman – The Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust
Read the full Corporate Plan here...