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13 Nov 2019

Support continues for Geilston Garden

Flowers and hedges alongside a path in Geilston’s kitchen garden.
Geilston Garden, Cardross
Trustees attending the Board Meeting of our conservation charity have agreed to keep Geilston Garden in Cardross open for at least another year while its future is explored.

The garden, which has been subject to a review and options appraisal process since 2016/17, has been making annual losses for the charity of circa £90,000, increasing to over £111,000 in the last financial year. It attracts a low number of visitors – around 11,000 per year – of whom less than 10% pay for entry, despite intensive efforts to promote it as a visitor destination.

In August 2016, Trustees had concluded that the position was unsustainable and instructed that Geilston House (which has never been open to the public), and potentially the garden, could be put up for sale.

The house and garden were originally acquired on the understanding that they could be sold on to accrue income for the charity’s conservation work, but instead the Trust opened the garden as a visited property in the late 1990s.

Geilston House is in poor condition and it has been estimated that £2 million or more would be needed to put it into a fit state for alternative uses.

Following representations by the Friends of Geilston group, the Trust agreed to work with them to investigate the options for the property’s future.

An options appraisal was produced by an external consultant in June 2019 and this set out four possible courses of action:

  • Sale of the full site and buildings
  • Partial sale of the site and/or buildings that would ensure at least part of the estate would remain accessible to the community
  • The Trust retaining the full site and seeking external funds to refurbish the house
  • The Trust retaining the site but releasing some of the estate for enabling developments that would fund the garden into the future

It had also been suggested that the National Trust for Scotland could hand the property to a community trust that would find it easier to access support from grant-giving bodies – but the Friends of Geilston rejected that option.

Given this, the charity’s Trustees concluded that options that involved a possible enabling development offered a realistic way forward and should be subject to further consideration.

Chief Executive, Simon Skinner said: ‘Our Trustees were presented with a difficult set of choices.

‘On the one hand, Geilston is of limited heritage value and is not inalienable, meaning the Trust is free to dispose of it. On the other, it is a valued local amenity and we feel obliged to find a practical way forward.

‘Our Board agreed that we must drill down deeper into the options and it will take at least another year to do this. In the interim, the Trust will appoint a land agent to determine the market interest in an enabling development, with a view to generating the funds needed to restore the house.

‘In the meantime, the garden will remain open as it is and will be accessible to the community.’