GREEN-FINGERED campaigners are fighting to save organic gardens recognised as among the best in Britain.
Fears have been raised for the future of Ryton Organic Gardens, established more than 30 years ago, after the site was put up for sale by charity Garden Organic.
It is understood the site could fetch up to £4million as a site for potential ‘residential redevelopment’
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).
Former charity executives Alan and Jackie Gear, who set up the gardens with founder Lawrence D Hills and Thelma Barlow, signed the letter, together with several former Garden Organic head gardeners, and organic gardening experts and Garden Organic Ambassadors Bob Flowerdew and Alys Fowler.
The letter calls on trustees to keep the gardens open and highlights their historic, educational and environmental value.
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 has yet to comment on the letter.
In the charity’s most recent statement on the potential sale 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.”