TIME is running out for a campaign to save one of Britain’s leading organic gardens, which could be bulldozed after its owners put it up for sale.
Ryton Organic Gardens, which has been based in Ryton-on-Dunsmore for more than 30 years, could fetch up to £4million after being listed for sale as a site for potential ‘residential redevelopment’ by charity Garden Organic.
The charity said it was exploring options for the 22-acre site because it was too expensive to run, with annual visitor numbers down from 30,000 eight years ago to 8,000.
But campaign group Save Ryton Gardens wants the sale to be stopped and the 20,000 members of the charity to be consulted to see if they can help with finances.
And a community farm based at the site wants to buy the land to keep both the farm and gardens open.
A spokesperson for Save Ryton Gardens said: “Ryton Gardens is a site of enormous importance to organic gardeners in this country. It is a showcase that demonstrates what can be achieved by working with nature rather than against it.
“We call on Garden Organic to engage openly with members and supporters to discuss the future of Ryton Gardens, and present a comprehensive account of the reasons for the sale and a detailed plan of the charity’s future direction.
“The proposed sale should then be put before the members, together with any alternatives, and then decided by a vote of the full membership.”
The group has started a petition and is encouraging supporters to contact Garden Organic in opposition to the sale.
Five Acre Community Farm, an organic vegetable business which has been based at Ryton Organic Gardens for six years, has put in a tender to buy the field, agricultural buildings and gardens to keep them in the community.
If successful, the farm would raise the money through a community share offer, enabling the land to be protected as a community growing space for the future.
A spokesperson for Garden Organic said: “The site is simply too expensive to run and means we are unable to fund projects in other parts of the country where we believe we can make a real difference.
“We will be exploring all possible options for the site, but we need to release the financial pressure that comes with owning and managing the land and buildings.
“This will allow us to invest more of our time and money in projects that will have the biggest impact and reach the most people.”
The gardens were established in 1985 as a home for the Henry Doubleday Research Association, which later became Garden Organic. A year later the gardens opened to the public to promote organic gardening.
Formal offers for the site are due today (February 15), and the charity’s trustees are due to meet on Saturday (February 17) to discuss tenders.