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Green donations splurged on swanky HQ

A couple of years back, WWF moved out of the converted industrial unit in Godalming that it had occupied for 20 years and settled into a smart new headquarters in Woking, a building that has just been shortlisted for the Stirling Prize for architecture. You can see why they might prefer this to a converted industrial unit.

The webpage for the award is rather cagey about what this swank has cost, saying that the figure is confidential. Fortunately, has some details for us, so as well as learning that WWF have chosen to build their HQ on a podium above a carpark - whatever happened to greens' enthusiasm for public transport? -  we can also learn that this was all achieved at a cost of £13 million.

I'm sure small donors to the green cause are grateful that their money is being spent carefully.

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Reader Comments (41)

In fairness to the WWF the car park was a brownfield site and they say

car park owned and run by Woking Borough Council – that was already covered in tarmac and was earmarked for further development. The car park is still operating as normal beneath us. Apart from four disabled bays we’ve not reserved any spaces for our employees – we want staff and visitors to make use of the excellent public transport links instead.

Buying new facilities on an existing building that have all the green energy saving things won't be cheap.

But it's not necessarily out of step with their stated aims.

Jul 16, 2015 at 9:49 AM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

Financed in part, from >£5m of government & NGO largesse.

Jul 16, 2015 at 9:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

Swanky Woking ?

Jul 16, 2015 at 9:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

They should have followed the Dutch example and built it above the railway station, which would have helped to finance the railways.

Jul 16, 2015 at 9:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterMikky

Does it have disabled transgender composting toilets.

Jul 16, 2015 at 10:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid

If we believe the late and much-lamented Professor Parkinson (and who doesn't?), this presages the decline and fall of the organisation involved.

One can hope...

Jul 16, 2015 at 10:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Duffin

The roof doesn't look very well insulated against cold or too much summer heat.
PS It's my intuition that there is probably masses of existing unused office space in the UK and using that is greener than building new ones no matter how green they are claimed to be.
"the number of desks has plummeted from 300 (one per person) to 182" OIK good
"Whereas Godalming had four wifi points, the new building has 73" ..surely using more energy
- the free land rental ..well Surrey Council will earn it back in other ways no ?

Jul 16, 2015 at 10:18 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

They've got an image to uphold - ha, ha. That's an argument that allows all sorts of organisations to enjoy all the perks of highly successful commercial businesses. 'We have to pay those salaries to get the best people'...

Those little old ladies they harass for cash should be happy to know that their pensions are making such wonderful people so comfortable /sarc. Let's hope these unpleasant creatures become endangered and eventually extinct.

Jul 16, 2015 at 10:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

They get to live there rent free courtesy of Woking Council:

A Surrey council has agreed to let a wildlife charity use one of its sites rent-free for 20 years.

WWF-UK is set to build its new headquarters on Brewery Road car park in Woking.

Jul 16, 2015 at 10:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

The thing to do now is to list other activities financed with "green" money so that we can appreciate how little this HQ matters in comparison to how much they give back to the planet.

There is an enormous budget to cover. Please start in 3, 2, 1...

Jul 16, 2015 at 10:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrute

ahhhhhh....that old faithful chestnut as we say not as we do........followed swiftly by 'resistance is futile' to the background strains of 'de-car-bon-ise', sung in the cadence of 'ex-ter-min-ate'.

Jul 16, 2015 at 10:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterManfred

And, presumably, as a charity they won't be paying NNDR either so none of that filters back to the Council. What was the deal for the council?

Jul 16, 2015 at 10:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterGrumpy

Looks very spacious. You could get ten Polar bears in there easily

Jul 16, 2015 at 10:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterEternalOptimist

Nothing is too grand when you are saving the planet. I wonder how much GWPFs HQ cost, because that is where the billions of fossil-fuel funding goes.

Jul 16, 2015 at 11:17 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Have they reported the "carbon footprint" of all that new cement used in the new concrete they used in the new building?

Jul 16, 2015 at 11:31 AM | Unregistered Commenterrms

According to their accounts it has cost £19.3 million up to June 2014:

4. Living Planet Centre restricted donations have been used for the construction of
the new headquarters. £19.3m had been spent on the construction at the date of
these accounts.

Jul 16, 2015 at 11:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

With all charities, I often wonder what they've actually achieved. I've become very doubtful of nearly all of them. Sure, the health charities invest in research, but when did we ever get an affordable drug at the end of it? Do people charities help the ones they're supposed to? I know that when looking after my elderly ailing parents all the relevant charities were useless. They couldn't provide useful information and they didn't DO anything but look concerned. The animal charities seem to be a mix of animal hoarders and political activists. Many charities duplicate the same work. Some charities have more money than they can reasonably spend in decades, which just seems to lead them into lavish spending on staff. Clearly they've been using boiler room tactics to extort money from the vulnerable.

One of the few charties that has impressed me lately has been Medecins Sans Frontieres, which was at least visibly on the ground in the recent Ebola crisis. The staff genuinely risked and sometimes lost their lives in appalling conditions. I'd not begrudge the money sent to emergency appeals either, though a lot of it is wasted on staff hotel bills and air fares. The activities seem to go sour after a while.

Can anyone tell me what do charities do that's so great?

Jul 16, 2015 at 11:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

I missed this:

26. Capital commitments
At the year end, WWF-UK had no further contracted expenditure on the construction
of the Living Planet Centre, other than that provided for (2013: £4.2m).

Which (I think) means they are committed to spending another £4.2 million

Jul 16, 2015 at 11:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

I have just looked up the 'Bishops' article in the Spectator on 11th August last year, wherein you described Maria Eagles speech as containing 'those gloriously weasel phrases that the more disreputable kind of climate scientist like to use when speaking to politicians'.
On that occasion the green blobs twisted version of Cook etal's concoction in the Guardian of 16th May 2013: Survey finds 97% of climate science papers agree warming is man-made, she quoted it as ‘established scientific fact, accepted by 97% of the scientists who study our climate systems’.
I have just returned our National Trust Membership cards, after taking the D.G. to task for blaming climate change and supposedly milder winters for not killing off silver fish in the Trusts properties.
What decided me was the letter written on behalf of Dame Helen Ghosh, stating "Those voices saying that the Trust is getting "too political" by talking about climate change, when 99% of scientific opinion is on our side, are clearly in a very small minority" My rebuttal remains unanswered.
I am sure 'the team of citizen science volunteers at Skeptical Science', included many members of the WWF.

Jul 16, 2015 at 11:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterShieldsman

To work in nice spacious, well lit, well ventilated offices with lots of real plants I made a serious mistake when I chose my career.
Normally it was a converted manufacturing workshop with no windows baking in summer freezing in winter, next to the canteen or emergency diesel generator with the old painted brick walls. On the other hand the carbon footprint per person in setting it up must have been virtually zero. It's what happens when you work in manufacturing creating wealth for the nation.

Jul 16, 2015 at 12:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

@Tiny I am with you ..I have this stupid idea that we pay taxes and the government should do it's job cos it is accountable via the 3 components of democracy public elections, courts and free media. And has the resources to get professional people to do a professional job, instead of relying on volunteer amateurs pottering along. Whereas charities are not in the same way democratically accountable. So I'd rather their be almost zero charities.

- The WWF came out with report that said 50% of the invertebrates had become been lost in the last 40 years.
The figure is super bogus, but wildlife might well be down ..anf whose watch is that on ? The WWF's. They've had billions and they still failed to protect wildlife ? Here in Sabah wild rhino numbers are supposedt o be down to zero ..well how did the WWF let that happen ?
Probably cos they diverted too much attention to climate change and let forest be cleared for palm oil biofuel.
- They are often in shopping centres collecting money ..when they talk about sustaining ..they mean sustaining their own machine.

Jul 16, 2015 at 12:23 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

SandyS did we work at the same place? Of course I got to rove about the place and on a hot day I'd go work in the telecomms room that was pre wall paint with cob webby, glass brick windows and a desk so antique and huge the building must have been assembled around it. It was August before the chill of winter wore off. I used to make a lot of noise before entering so the mice had time to hide. We had a deal that if they didn't chew the wiring or poop on my chair they could stay. We did fall out when they made a nest in one of the instruction manuals but to be fair they'd never seen me read it.

Jul 16, 2015 at 12:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

stewgreen , charities are democratic - if they stay independent of the other institutions (courts, press and Government).

They are an aspect of the freedom to assemble.
A group that has a common interest can pool there resources and publicise it. That works for railway enthusiasts, wildlife lovers, victims of specific crimes... They are part of the common debate and social life of society.

Otherwise all such communities must be a subset of a political party or religious institution. Or nothing.

Jul 16, 2015 at 12:35 PM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

Judging a book by its cover and a person by their appearance happens.... it's unavoidable and must have some value if only to save some energy expended in thinking.... No doubt visiting politicians are impressed with the trappings of success....

The pervasiveness of corporatism and its attendant marketing and PR tells us something about too many modern charity vehicles - they are self sustaining bureaucracies seeking funds from the path of least resistance whilst proclaiming about the ills that they supposedly proffer remedy for. It's far too easy for political activists and conniving public sector folk to exploit the considerable tax , financial reporting and shareholder interest to feather-bed their not so little fiefdoms.

The abuse of charity status is now an epidemic and thanks to Blair et. al's creation of a whole new subspecies of charity vehicles operating outside effective oversight, drawing funding all too often from obliging public servants - it's an invasive species that the public has little knowledge of at the moment.Some people are very determined indeed to maintain that public ignorance.

The charity sector needs reform on quite an epic scale. That can't happen by the traditional method of not putting money in a bucket - because the parasites have adjusted their feeding strategies.....

M Courtney - you are correct as far as you go - but from what I've seen the constitution of charities and their rules are a matter for the individual organisations - and there's the rub - I've seen charities run by a small clique of individuals as their own fiefdoms and decisions taken at meetings where the minutes read like sub standard Monty Python scripts - all done in a manner that most people would - if they knew - be incensed about. The interpretation of member votes consequent from weasel wording the questions is another favoured tactic - all usually delivered long, long post facto.

UK charity status is too easy and inadequately overseen.

Jul 16, 2015 at 12:38 PM | Registered Commentertomo

Hopefully the flora and fauna of timber decay have been permanently eradicated without chemicals, or unsustainable double standards.

Jul 16, 2015 at 12:48 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

As part of my daughter-in-law's sister's wedding anniversary last weekend, we visited The Crystal - 'One of the world's most sustainable buildings' in Newham...

All sorts of 'green' gismos and systems - technically very interesting - BUT....

God knows how much it cost Seimens to build (anyone know..?)...

The entrance fee is eye-watering....

On a summer Sunday afternoon, we were the only party being shown round by the guide.

Don't rate its chances of survival as a visitor attraction very highly

Jul 16, 2015 at 12:55 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1


"On a summer Sunday afternoon, we were the only party being shown round by the guide."

Sounds like the kind of place that would have received a National Lottery grant...

Jul 16, 2015 at 1:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

I remember when WWF stood for Word Wildlife Fund, before it had to be re-branded as the Word Wide Fund for Nature after it emerged that > 90% of its income went on overheads. Now it's just WWF but not much else appears to have changed.

Jul 16, 2015 at 1:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterGavin

M Courtney, "In fairness to the WWF" - fairness?

Give me strength, whether it be through voluntary donations or via involuntary levy - all these charities, from Save the Children to food aid for the Syrian Deash, to WWF all of them are extracting not only blood but the urine from the British people.

"> 90% of its income went on overheads" said Gavin.

It, WWF seems to permanently, profoundly, earnestly advertize its hard wringing precocious piety. And as the new religion dictates of, sustainability, save the 'poley bears'/tiger whatev'. WWF, airs it's wares re "save the planet bollox" on Sky - even if Sky grants it [WWF] 'mates rates' that's some major item in their debit column....or does the EU cough up for them and therefore the UK taxpayer pays double for WWF's egregious, incessant, windbaggery of green propaganda.


WWF, is not a charity, crass and blatant with it and quite plainly it is an agency of political advocacy.

With added insult - funded in large part from the public purse - whether it be via direct grants [check] or via 'gifts' ie rent free [check].

Please, someone tell me, how many business's - you know real businesses that create wealth - are granted a permanent business rates window - I'll tell you - not f****** many. WWF it is bestowed taxpayer funds ie it is granted charity from yours and my pockets/purses - in order that it can act as an agency to promote something we neither need nor, ever asked for - the green agenda.

Decouple the UK taxpayer umbilical cord and NOW. MInd you, we'd have to euphemistically speaking you understand, destroy the whole structure and shoot the Westminster vermin [Tory and Lavs] and get out of the EU to do rid ourselves of leeches like WWF.

Jul 16, 2015 at 2:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

Please note I said, "charities are democratic - if they stay independent of the other institutions (courts, press and Government)."

The problem is that they can't be restrained by a lack of public support if they have legal backing, media hype or taxes in their support.
But with the restraint of needing funds from the public they are a valuable source of civil society.

Tomo, yes some are petty little fiefdoms. So what? If that's what people want to support financially then I say let them.

An independent charity sector wouldn't be a left-right political issue. Even if some charities would still be on the left and the right. They would reflect and attract the will of their funders.

Jul 16, 2015 at 2:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterMCourtney

MCourtney, if they were businesses they would have to live up to their claims, not least in being charitable. There are plenty of rules for businesses that don't seem to apply to charities. Most of them steer very close to being extortionists and seem to offer almost nothing in return but political activism. The body served with the job of overseeing them is too buddy buddy with them and it's taboo for anyone else to criticise them. Or it was. It's only due to the death of that old poppy seller that they're under pressure but it's hardly a surprise that they've been using pressure selling techniques. I've refused to contact any of them with my personal details and only give cash because regardless of what box you tick they bombard you with mail or phone calls.

Jul 16, 2015 at 3:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

MCourtney, I would be the first to agree that in the UK, Charities have done amazing things. Unfortunately political motivations have corrupted their delivery.

This blog is about Global Warming. The Warmist agenda has included relabelling anybody who dissents as a Denier etc, and trying to portray anybody who dissents as right wing and uncaring,. I presume this annoys you somewhat.

The corruption of politics, by those with vested interests always annoys the public, and sells newspapers, yet the corruption of charities by those with political interests, is kept hidden, because if the public knew, the person who exposed the scandal would be vilified for ruining charities. Some charities are happy to fire off publicly, knowing that no one will dare fire back.

The BBC (not legally a charity, but considers itself almost above the law) has played the nice sweet kindly Aunty Beeb role to death, and is now realising that the public does not like people building financial empires, at the public's expense.

The Vatican has come in for a lot of criticism for getting involved in the politics of global warming, following intense political lobbying. The Vatican will be stuck with it. Political lobbyists will just move on.

I do hope that the good work of charities is not destroyed for short term political forces.

Jul 16, 2015 at 3:30 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

The world land trust is a charity which does good work providing funding for nature reserves.
I have been to some of them.

Jul 16, 2015 at 4:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

I don't want to veer too far off topic here but my concern has been throughout this thread that - charities are being denigrated as a class. Not all charities are inherently disingenuous.

Even the WWF hasn't been out of character for their adverts.

Yes, there is corruption by short term political forces. But I've suggested how to fix that. Only the media link is hard to legislate away.

Jul 16, 2015 at 4:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterMCourtney

Not sure if the charity idea works on a big scale.

A good charity runs on enthusiasm with lots of keen volunteers, a few underpaid staff, a shabby office and mahoosive passion about their thing.

The tax breaks etc are designed with this idea in mind - not thinking of huge multi-national mega-blobs like Oxfam, greenpeace, WWF, Save the Children.

Jul 16, 2015 at 10:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

I used to think that " charities" were organisations that were run on a shoestring using a mainly unpaid volunteer workforce
that raised money to assist people who could not obtain help or resources from other sources for what ever reason, and that most of the money was raised by or from volunteers and most of it was used directly for the specific purpose or cause espoused by the particular charity.

I then came across a "charity" that advertised its mission( expensively and on TV and in glossy mags) to assist a population of aboriginal people from exploitation by industry and to oppose the policy of assimilation pursued by the elected government of the country which they inhabited. Only the political leaders of the population were familiar with or had ever met people from the charity and they used the contact mainly to leverage their own political status with their government. The rank and file had never had any meaningful encounters with the charity and a large proportion of them did not even know that the charity was " there to defend and protect them" or even that it existed at all.

It subsequently transpired that the charity had expensive offices in the west end of London where well paid managers "worked"
had high status '' corporate " trinkets and junkets and spent most of the money raised on their corporate existence and image, on advertising and money collection, travel, accommodation and expenses for conference attendance and lobbying of the UK government.

The scales then dropped from my eyes and I realised that most " large" charities - those with offices, advertising budgets, logos and publications, promotional projects and trinkets (adopt a cause/animal/ programs, badges, cuddly toys etc) and which always seem to be present at whatever save the planet conference is going on - actually operated in the mirror image of real charities.

These " corporate" charities do not exist to support an object or cause but the object or cause has been espoused, adopted and captured as the means to extract money from the public -both directly and via grants, free rides, tax exemptions, sponsorships etc to enable the hierarchy of the "Charity" to ape the lifestyle and image of corporate or political leaders and hobnob with them at all the "save the planet" and similar conferences and events.

In my country we have already had it revealed to us that more than one of the most trusted and prestigious "charities" which were in receipt of massive government subvention was using the monies collected by its volunteers shaking cans on the street in the rain TO TOP UP THE PENSION POTS OF THE DIRECTORS AND MANAGEMENT.

I doubt that these were isolated cases.

Jul 16, 2015 at 11:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterSpectator

Perhaps, copies of the photographs should be sent to Ambassadors from India and China? Include a notation or two that the business site was built with India Rupees and China's Yen.

Might a well give credit where credit is due... ;>

Jul 17, 2015 at 12:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterATheoK

The not-always-so-green Woking Council often like to burnish their green credentials. I suspect that a certain senior councillor probably hopes to get knighted if he sucks up enough to the right ministers.

Jul 17, 2015 at 12:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

Our local library was put up at great cost by the county council on "green principals" and is cold in the winter and stifling hot in the summer.

Jul 17, 2015 at 7:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterForester126

Does it have disabled transgender composting toilets.

Are Brute's predatory minions out to compost the disabled, disable the transgendered or get jobs as GWPF copy writers ?

Jul 19, 2015 at 3:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

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