BOROUGH councillors have joined green-fingered gurus in urging the owners of one of Britain’s leading organic gardens not to sell the site.
Ryton Organic Gardens, which has been based in Ryton-on-Dunsmore for more than 30 years, could fetch up to £4million after it was 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 a letter opposing the sale of the ‘nationally important’ gardens has been sent to the charity’s trustees from campaign group Save Ryton Organic Gardens (SROG).
It has been signed by 18 people, including councillors Tim Douglas and Jerry and Sue Roodhouse from Rugby Borough Council, and organic gardening experts and Garden Organic Ambassadors Bob Flowerdew and Alys Fowler.
Former charity executives Alan and Jackie Gear, who set up the gardens with founder Lawrence D Hills, and Thelma Barlow have also added their names – as has Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western and several former Garden Organic head gardeners.
The letter asks trustees and the CEO to “find a solution which keeps the gardens open to the public as a demonstration of the principles and practice of organic gardening.
“The gardens have historic, educational and environmental value and have great meaning for many people, both local and from further afield.”
SROG spokeswoman Judy Steele said: “We really hope the trustees will realise how important it is to save these gardens.
“We have been given no information about whether a sale is going ahead, so we can only assume the worst and carry on campaigning.”
Garden Organic did not respond to a request for comment.
The charity’s most recent statement on the potential sale came in February, when a spokesman said: “We have received a number of expressions of interest in our site at Ryton, from wide ranging sources and for a variety of purposes.
“At the moment these expressions of interest contain only headline information with minimal detail. The next step will be to meet with interested parties and begin discussions to understand the detail behind each one. This will be a complex and potentially lengthy process.
“We are looking to secure the long-term future of the charity and release the financial pressures from owning and managing the land and buildings. Discussions could take the form of a full sale, a partial sale, a partnership or otherwise – it is simply too early to tell.
“The running costs of the full site at Ryton are limiting our ability to operate to our full potential. The site is expensive to run and means that we are unable to fund as many projects as we would like in other parts of the country where we believe we could make a real difference.”
No trustee had responded to SROG’s letter when The Observer went to press.