A Save Ryton Gardens website has been set up and Five Acre CSA has submitted a tender.
In September 2017 the Garden Organic trustees sent out a letter with The Organic Way magazine to the entire membership of over 20,000 informing them of the Board of Trustees decision to explore options for their headquarters at Ryton. The trustees were looking to secure the long-term future of the charity, the letter said, and to release the financial pressures from owning and managing the land and buildings.
As part of the exercise to understand what future options the organisation has, the site is being marketed by property advisors, Bruton Knowles, with expressions of interest requested this week (DEADLINE 15th February). Over the weeks following the Trustees will be considering any expressions of interest and will start to discuss proposals with interested parties. Discussions could take the form of a full sale, a partial sale, a partnership or otherwise - it is simply too early to tell.
In recent years, it has become clear to the Trustees of the charity that the running costs of the full site at Ryton are limiting their ability to operate to their full potential. The site is expensive to run and means that they are unable to fund as many projects as they would like in other parts of the country where they believe they could make a real difference. In addition visitor numbers to the site have dropped as there are many different sites across the country where organic gardening can be seen in practice and many television programmes, magazines, online resources, etc. promoting organic gardening. The full statement from the trustees can be found here.
This dramatic development has come as a shock to many members despite the September letter in which the word ‘sale’ did not appear. The relevant message was apparently on the back of the address sheet that accompanies the magazine and is often discarded without reading. The Trustees will be meeting to consider the submitted tenders and expressions of interest on 17th February so any representations will need to be made before they meet.
It is known that Five Acre CSA, which currently occupies the old research field at Ryton, has submitted a tender. The exact details are not known at this time but it is said to include a community share offer. Other options such as crowdfunding and a member share offer are also under consideration but it is also possible that the land will be sold for residential development despite it being in the Green Belt.
There has been significant press coverage of this development and there has been much comment on Twitter and Facebook. The Save Ryton Gardens campaign has its own Facebook page and now has a website. The future of Ryton Gardens clearly hangs in the balance and anyone concerned about this iconic site being lost should lobby the trustees, join the campaign, and generally spread the word.