Lia Nici MP Member of Parliament for Great Grimsby
Martin Vickers MP Member of Parliament for the Cleethorpes Constituency
Dear Lia and Martin
I am writing to you as my local Member of Parliament to ask for your support to safeguard the future of The Linnean Society of London. Whilst I appreciate this is an issue outside your constituency it is of the uppermost importance for the world’s flora and fauna and future generations.
The Government has a duty of care to protect our natural capital and – in my opinion – encourage and support those who spend their life observing and recording natural history in order to make science clear.
This scientific clarity is essential – it is the data of today, which is essential given the dwindling of natural history. Only the truth about the natural world will set us free to do something about reversing its decline. In other words, we can (hopefully) learn from our mistakes. And future generations can have access to baseline data – how things looked at a point in history. The Linnean Society is the platform and social bond to help naturalists grow and mature. The Society upholds its responsibility, to tell the truth about the natural world.
This Society is years in the making. Its home is Burlington House and it should not be disturbed (forced to relocate) in the interest of short-term commercial gain. Some things are beyond the balance sheet; some things are priceless. That said, ‘Independent analysis estimates that the Society contributes £8.2 million of public benefit to the UK every year.’
The Linnean Society’s vision is ‘a world where nature is understood, valued and protected.’ The Society aims to ‘inform, involve and inspire people about nature and its significance through our collections, events and publications.’
However, the Society finds itself diverting its attention to wrangling with the Government over rent. It will soon be forced to move from Burlington House (Piccadilly, London), due to unaffordable, rapidly escalating annual rent rises set by our landlord: the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government. What a shame it is that this valuable Society, which has encouraged debate and discussion of natural history including taxonomy, evolutionary biology and ecology whilst diverting knowledge and resources to address some of the most urgent issues facing the natural world, such as climate change and biodiversity loss could potentially be thrown out into the streets with its botanical, zoological and library collections have been in its keeping since 1829.
Rent has increased by more than 3000% between 2012 and 2018. A similar situation is faced by our neighbours, the Society of Antiquaries and the Geological Society.
About the society, its work and value:
Founded in 1788, the Linnean Society of London is the world’s oldest active society dedicated to the natural world.
The Society’s home at Burlington House acts as an international hub for research, discovery and debate. It was purpose-built for the Society’s charitable activities and is a significant educational and historical resource for the nation.
Burlington House has been refurbished and adapted to hold the Society’s many educational activities, safeguard its world-renowned and Arts Council England (ACE)- Designated heritage collections, and bring together academia and other enthusiasts about the natural world with a diverse public.
The Society helps to establish concepts like natural capital and ecosystem services, which will help the UK to protect the environment and pave the way for sustainable economic growth.
Burlington House is where the first public presentation of the theory of evolution was held and will continue to play a central role in research and understanding as to the UK and the wider world looks to find solutions to the biggest challenges our society and the planet face, including the biodiversity crisis and climate change.
The Society without Burlington House is the reverse of evolution and may set the Society back years.
This is all very unnecessary. The Linnean Society is already paying its way; Independent analysis estimates that the Society contributes £8.2 million of public benefit to the UK every year, in part realised through educational resources, regular tours, conferences and a range of lectures every month.
A move from Burlington House would separate the Society from the international hub of research and discovery at Burlington House and threaten the UK’s position on the world stage.
The dispersal of the co-located learned societies, their collections, libraries and archives would inevitably limit the combined contributions made to research and discovery for both national and global benefit.
It would also diminish the Society’s network that supports its valuable work for the UK. The Society will lose its close ties to the other important biological and historical collections and associated research expertise in London, its political, diplomatic and media influence, and its international status.
As my local Member of Parliament, I would ask if you could:
Express my concerns on this matter to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government (as the landlord), as well as the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (as the department concerned with nature and the environment) and ask for their support in finding a solution.
Contact Tim Loughton MP, who is helping coordinate Parliamentary interest on this matter.
With kind regards
For more information: The Linnean Society of London, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BF UK Tel: +44 (0)20 7434 4479 Fax: +44 (0)20 7287 9364 Web: www.linnean.org | https://www.linnean.org/the-society/savebh
Simon King FLS | Fellow of the Linnean Society of London