Charity sector pays tribute to former lottery fund chair Peter Ainsworth

08 Apr 2021 News

Churches Conservation Trust

Charity leaders and politicians have paid tribute to Peter Ainsworth, former chair of the National Lottery Community Fund, after his death was announced. 

In a joint statement two organisations that he chaired, the Churches Conservation Trust and the Heritage Alliance, announced yesterday that he had passed away suddenly.

Ainsworth was UK chair of the Big Lottery Fund (Now National Lottery Community Fund) from 2011 to 2019 and was a board member of the Environment Agency. He was also previously chairman of Plantlife International and the Elgar Foundation.

The Churches Conservation Trust issued a statement which reads: “We are very sad to have to announce the sudden passing of our chair of trustees, Peter Ainsworth. He has been a passionate advocate for heritage; he will be greatly missed.

“Peter was appointed chairman of The Churches Conservation Trust in July 2016 and was made chair of the Heritage Alliance in 2018. Latterly he also sat on the Rhodes Commission.

“Peter has given over 30 years of commitment to public life and has made a significant contribution to the heritage sector. His involvement in heritage dates back to 1995, when he was appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for National Heritage. He was a member of the DCMS Select Committee in 2009-10.”

He was an MP for East Surrey for 18 years until 2010. He served as shadow secretary of state for culture and shadow secretary of state of the environment, food and rural affairs.

“A former investment banker, Peter was a founding partner of sustainability consultancy the Robertsbridge Group. He was also a patron of the College of St Barnabas, a residential community of retired Anglican clergy in Lingfield, Surrey,” the statement reads.

The Churches Conservation Trust said it  “is really grateful” for his five years as chair, seeing the organisation through a change of chief executive and the implementation of a new strategy and the pandemic.

It added: “At the Heritage Alliance, Peter chaired the organisation through the pandemic which has greatly affected many of our members, and we are grateful for the way in which he both supported the Alliance’s growth and tirelessly championed our 150+ organisations in a time of great need.

“Peter was passionate about effecting positive change and ensuring heritage is understood as a public good.

“Our thoughts are with Peter’s family at this time.”


The prime minister, Boris Johnson also offered his condolences to Ainsworth's family.


Oliver Dowden, secretary of state for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said: “It is with deep sadness that I learned today of Peter's death. He was unfailingly kind, charming and a committed public servant, which he demonstrated most recently as a passionate Chair of the Churches Conservation Trust and the Heritage Alliance. We will miss him greatly, and my thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.”

Dawn Austwick, who was chief executive at NLCF until last year, said: “I am so sad that Peter has passed away.  He was a delightful colleague: courteous, wise, and witty.  It was a pleasure to work for and with him for six years at the National Lottery Community Fund which he led as chair with integrity, humility, and principle.  He will be much missed.”

Councillor Mark Brunt wrote: “This a shock and a said loss, I worked closely with Peter and his then young family when he was first selected to replace Sir Geoffrey Howe as MP for East Surrey, he was always passionate about whatever he was involved and will be sadly missed by many.”

Hilary McGrady, director general of the National Trust described him as  “a wonderful champion for heritage”.

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