Management of the Village
Port Sunlight became a conservation area in 1977. Nearly every building in the village is Grade II listed. Port Sunlight is arguably the finest surviving example of early urban planning in the UK. The original village is almost completely intact and has become one of the principal tourist destinations for Wirral.
From about 1995, Unilever started to consider ways
and means of handing the management of the village over to a suitable body so that the company could concentrate on its core business activities. After examining various models including the possible establishment of a housing association, it was eventually decided to create a registered charity and hence The Port Sunlight Village Trust was established in April 1999. The whole of the village that remained unsold was transferred to the Trust. The Trust has also been financially supported by Unilever and this will continue until 2017 when it will cease altogether. The long term aim for the Trust is to achieve a sufficiently high level of financial independence so that the future of the village is assured without reliance upon significant charitable donations.
The Trust is managed by a Board of Trustees employing a number of professional staff and a team of gardeners to carry out various functions. Services for repairs and maintenance work, architecture, building surveying and legal matters are procured from external firms and consultants as and when required. The Trust's charitable objectives are firstly to preserve and maintain the character, the landscape and buildings within the Conservation Area of Port Sunlight and secondly to promote understanding of the ideas underlying the foundation and development of the village. The Trust works with a number of village societies and resident groups.
The Trust also runs Port Sunlight Museum which is only 2 years old and forms the central platform to its mission of promoting the ideas surrounding the foundation of the village and its development. The museum is operated by a staff team supported by a group of volunteers. This was a £1million project funded by Heritage Lottery Fund and the European Regional Development Fund (Objective 1). Visitors are able to book walks with Village Guides who also give guided tours to coach parties.
650 of the homes in Port Sunlight are privately owned due to Unilever's decision to sell houses in the 1980's. Almost all are Grade II Listed and therefore subject to planning controls covering everything from the style of the chimney pots to the colour of the front door. The Trust also enjoys the rights to restrictive covenants that apply to all of the houses that have been sold. Through these, the Trust can also contribute to the control of the village heritage.
The Trust has opted to retain its existing stock of houses rather than sell and this is a core feature of the Trust's business strategy. The Trust owns 253 tenanted dwellings along with 8 principal buildings that are leased to various operators or clubs.
All the visible green space in the village is in the ownership of the Trust. No owner occupier owns a front garden. The management of the landscape and its maintenance to a uniform standard is one of the remarkable features of this village that distinguish it from almost all others. This invariably adds to the "theatre" of Port Sunlight and establishes a somewhat opulent presentation for the village. It does more than this however as it also unifies all of the buildings together into a setting quite unique and delightful to the eye. Residents are actively encouraged to maintain their rear gardens and house frontages with complementary planting to a high standard and an annual Garden Competition is held to promote this.