The future of St Andrews’ Botanic Gardens has been secured after the University of St Andrews agreed to lease the garden directly to a newly established charitable Garden Trust.
The University has offered an initial five-year lease to the Trust, with a review scheduled after three years of successful operation to discuss a longer-term arrangement. It is hoped that the lease will be signed in the coming weeks.
The announcement follows the development of a business model that is supported by all parties involved with the Botanic Gardens, and which aims to bring it to a sustainable financial footing by 2018.
Jean Stewart, chair of the new Garden Trust, said: “This is an important milestone for the Garden, and one towards which many people have worked long and hard.
“The Garden Trust will work alongside Fife Council over the course of the summer, with a view to taking over the running of the Garden in October 2014.”
The Garden is enjoyed by approximately 26,500 visitors annually and the Education Trust arranges guided and self-guided tours for some 3,500 Fife schoolchildren every year, along with a popular raft of adult education and horticultural courses.
First on the list of public projects for the Trust will be the installation of a long-awaited café and children’s play area near the main entrance. During 2014 it will be open from June to October, working towards year-round opening within a few years’ time.
Robin Waterston, chair of the Friends of St Andrews Botanic Garden, said: “The Friends have been fully engaged with this process and we are pleased that a viable way forward has been agreed by the parties.
“We look forward to working with the new Garden Trust, and will continue to contribute to the volunteer effort which will be pivotal in helping the project to succeed.
“We will work with the Trust on further fundraising and will be contacting those who last year so generously pledged their financial support.”
The Botanic Garden was founded in 1889 by the University of St Andrews and has developed on its present site since 1960. Fife Council has operated the Garden under lease from the University since 1987.
Over that time a renowned collection of some 8,000 species has been acquired and exhibited in a series of habitats, outside and under glass.
The future of the Garden has recently been subject to uncertainty. The University of St Andrews no longer has any academic need for the Garden and does not have the resources to take on its future management. In addition, the 25-year management lease under which Fife Council has run the Garden has come to an end.