RHS housing policy set to impact staff at Wisley

More than one-third of permanent horticulture employees who live in Wisley staff houses will have to find new accommodation as part of a new RHS policy to rent out houses commercially.

RHS Garden Wisley - image: Pixabay
RHS Garden Wisley - image: Pixabay

Wisley Village, near RHS Garden Wisley in Surrey, was purpose built with 80 units for staff on 40ha. The houses are worth up to £800,000 each and the RHS is keen to realise their commercial value to go towards its charitable aims.

An RHS horticulturist job at Wisley advertised in 2014 paid £16,979 a year and a horticultural team leader at the same garden is paid £22,285, meaning mortgages and rents in the area are out of reach, say staff.

A new RHS Wisley Village manager has the role of developing an operational plan to agree forward planning for the village and to "explore and pursue appropriate uses for the land and buildings that contribute to meeting the society objectives".

An RHS representative said: "Last year the RHS reviewed how staff housing is allocated across the charity to make our approach more consistent, fairer to other staff in similar roles and to make best use of our resources as a responsible charity.

"As a result of the review a new housing policy was created. All staff who currently live in Wisley Village were consulted in November 2014 and given a guarantee that no notice would be given for a minimum of five years. Key workers have also been identified who need housing near to the garden to be able to do their job and while they are in that job they have housing guaranteed.

"Much of the housing needs refurbishment and the RHS wants to make the village an even more diverse and vibrant community with housing for employees as well as for commercial letting. This will also raise important funds for the RHS, which is embarking on a major programme of projects and significant investment in horticulture.

"Of the 102 horticultural staff at Wisley, 23 currently live in the village. This demonstrates that the RHS will continue to retain and recruit garden staff with its housing policy. There are also 24 horticultural students who live in the purpose-built student block. Post 2020, 15 staff are allocated to live in the village as part of the housing policy."

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