Funding refused for garden make-over

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Plans to breathe new life into the medieval garden at the heart of St Andrews have been dashed after Fife Council denied necessary funding.

St John’s Garden, which is owned by the University of St Andrews, was to be restored with the money. The University was working in conjunction with the Pilgrim Foundation of St Andrews to turn St John’s into a sensory garden. This sensory garden would be for the benefit of those who were blind, hard of sight or dealing with stress; the garden was to be transformed into an “oasis in the centre of the town” according to a University spokesperson.

The plan was for the University to allow the Pilgrim Foundation the use of their property, who were then in charge of securing the funding. However, the council rejected monetary applications to the St Andrews Common Good Fund, because of the limited access the public would have to the garden. The University had offered to make the garden open to the public from 10 am to 3 pm. However, the council felt that this was not enough.

St Andrews councillor Brian Thomson said: “I would fully support the principle of saving the garden but can’t support public money being given to the University when there will be limited access.”

When asked to comment on the councils’ decision, the University told The Saint: “On access, we have guaranteed to keep the garden open between 10 am and 3 pm. We cannot simply leave it open all hours because of the risk of vandalism. It’s unfortunate that local councillors have chosen to focus on the negative, rather than the positive of the University guarantee to make this private garden open and accessible daily.”

Although the garden belongs to the University, it is the St Andrews Pilgrim Foundation who are actually driving the project. The foundation is hoping to raise £161,000 to restore the garden. They had hoped to receive £5,000 of this from the councils’ St Andrews Common Good Fund.

The Pilgrim Foundations told The Saint that they would look else where for funding. An example of this alternative funding is the £10,000 they received from Dominoes. The Pilgrim Foundation also holds an annual eBay auction where they sell premium “money can’t buy” experiences for golfers. This year’s auction raised £10,000.

The Pilgrim Foundation, which was set up in 1998, raises funds for conservation of St Andrews. The foundation has played a key role in many projects in the town such as the harbour redevelopment and the St John’s gate restoration.

When asked what they thought about the controlled access, the Pilgrim Foundation told The Saint that they are “grateful to the University.” They pointed out that the security and the janitorial staff will all be provided by the University and that they could not keep the garden open, completely unrestricted.

When asked about the set back the project has faced, a representative from the Pilgrim Foundation, Maries Cassells, told The Saint: “every challenge is there to be met.”

The redevelopment of St John’s Garden is a twophase plan. The sensory garden is phase one. Phase two will consist of a developing the heritage of the garden so that visitors can learn about its history.

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