Botanic gardens aim to survive and thrive

St Andrews agrees plan for its site and Edinburgh garden unveils £40m revamp but Newcastle's Moorbank facing closure.

University of St Andrews: botanic garden to be leased to a new trust - image: University of St Andrews
University of St Andrews: botanic garden to be leased to a new trust - image: University of St Andrews

Three northern botanic gardens have hit the headlines as they look for ways to develop and survive.

The University of St Andrews in Fife, Scotland, is to lease its garden to a trust at a peppercorn rent of £1 in the hope it can be maintained as a viable attraction.

St Andrews University Court considered a business plan prepared by the Friends of the Botanic Gardens that proposed the site be leased to a new trust.

The university said it had no strategic need for the garden, which has been leased to and operated by Fife Council for the past 25 years. The council has given notice of its intention to end the lease from September.

The court agreed to grant the council or an appropriately constituted trust a free lease of five years in the first instance, rolling thereafter, for the operation of the site as a botanic garden.

Vice-principal Stephen Magee said: "We hope we are giving people who care deeply about the garden the chance to develop a sustainable plan for its future. The garden cannot succeed or survive unless it is used and visited by far more local people, tourists and visitors than is currently the case."

Meanwhile, Newcastle University's Moorbank botanic garden remains under threat from closure after landlord the Freemen of Newcastle rejected a business plan for it.

Newcastle University had decided not to renew its lease with the freemen from November, prompting the Friends of Moorbank to draw up a plan to keep the garden open to the public. But the freemen will now take back the site on a care and maintenance basis, with rare plants being removed.

That decision has spurred an online petition to save the botanic garden that can be viewed at save-moorbank-botanic-garden-newcastle.

Edinburgh revamp - Locals voice concerns

At Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE), locals have complained about a plan to build polytunnels, a glasshouse, a staff building and a vehicle shed.

RBGE also intends to undertake a £40m revamp in the north-east of the garden, after receiving £1.5m from the Scottish Government, but the work is subject to planning approval. Contractors and suppliers have yet to be appointed.

The masterplan includes the creation of the Scottish School of Botany & Horticulture, improved facilities for RBGE's scientific researchers and their collection, refurbishment of the historic glasshouses, creation of new glasshouses and improved visitor-experience facilities.

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