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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

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Charity confirms Edinburgh urban farm set to close amid running costs crisis


Politicians have called for talks to try and avert the closure of the popular Gorgie Farm.

The charity running one of Scotland’s last urban farms has been forced to close its doors for the second time in three years amid the ongoing running costs crisis, with a last-ditch attempt now underway to save the much-loved site. 

Operators of Edinburgh's Gorgie Farm announced last week that it would close its doors next month having "tried everything" to avoid this situation.

The site, which which gives volunteering opportunities to disadvantaged young people and adults, has warned that rising costs and lack of funding have forced this decision.

The charity currently operating the farm, Love Learning, took over Gorgie after it went into liquidation in 2019 but was saved following over £100,000 of crowdfunding.  

The charity's CEO, Lynn Bell, told BBC Scotland: "When we took over the farm we were told by the administrators that City of Edinburgh Council gives £100,000 a year and had been doing so in the farm's 40 year history.

"But when we took it over we kept asking the council when it was going to open its grant so we could apply but it never did.

"Also, just weeks after we officially opened the Covid lockdown began and now the cost of living crisis has hit, and we just can't do it alone."

Leadership at the charity said that energy bills had been a particular issue, with costs rising from £17,000 for 18 months to £27,000 for just eight months.

The site supports 30 jobs, welcomes volunteers, looks after 50 livestock and 50 pets, and also supports allotments - all of which will now be under threat. It’s understood the animals will now be rehomed in sanctuaries or on other farms, while consultation with staff is set to begin this week. 

Edinburgh City Council defended its work with the farm, saying it had faced "difficult decisions" over its budget in 2023 and had discussed "new operating models" with Love Gorgie Farm.

Council Leader, Labour Councillor Cammy Day, said: "Sadly, they're not alone in feeling the devastating effects of the pandemic, with many organisations struggling to cope with falling visitor numbers and rising costs.

"As a council, we stepped in to support the venue three years ago - giving it a new lease of life and allowing Love Learning to take over - and have offered to work with them again."

Ms Bell said that the charity is now propping up Gorgie Farm financially to the tune of £20,000 a month. 

The CEO said: "We have been appealing to the council for two years and we also did a feasibility study seven months ago and sent it to them but they didn't respond.

"We've tried everything. I want to publicly apologise for not being able to make it work and to say I am sorry.

"I feel like (a) failure and there have been a lot of tears."

A last-ditch attempt to save the charity-run farm is now underway, with Conservative MSP for the Lothians, Miles Briggs, calling for cross-party talks on the matter.

Mr Briggs has also written to Deputy First Minister John Swinney requesting emergency short-term funding for the farm.

The MSP told the Edinburgh Evening News: “I have written to Cammy Day, asking if the council would chair emergency cross-party talks to see whether or not a solution can be found, and to John Swinney, asking whether the Scottish Government could provide some sort of interim funding while a package is put together. 

“We all did our best to save the farm when it was under threat before, so I'd hope there's as much goodwill to try to find a solution going forward.

“This news has broken at the west possible time politically speaking since it was the middle of the Christmas break for both Holyrood and the council and we can't push the issue in parliament or in person. 

“I think probably there is an opportunity to relook at the model and whether or not that's needing just interim funding. 

“The council is obviously in a very difficult place financially but there must be an imaginative way of trying to see what can be saved. If not it will go and I'm sure a developer will be rubbing their hands together looking at that site.” 



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