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Botanic Garden Under Threat in University Cutbacks

DUNDEE, SCOTLAND
5 February 2007

The garden is important for many sectors of the communityThe University of Dundee Botanic Garden, described on its website as "the Jewel in the Crown of the University" is under threat as the University looks to cut spending in its new budget.

The Garden is a centre for public enjoyment in addition to its principal function of supplying plant material for teaching and research within the University of Dundee.

A university spokesman has said, “We are looking at potential savings in our gardens and grounds departments, and as part of that we will give consideration to the place of the botanic garden in the university.

“We will prioritise services which are relevant to the university’s teaching and research needs.”

There is a possible withdrawal of £250,000 funding. Six jobs could also be lost if the popular community asset was starved of the cash as part of a university-wide cost-cutting exercise.

Former curator Leslie Bisset, who retired in 2000, said the garden was a great asset to Dundee and added, “I would hate to see anything happen to it.”

The garden, which occupies 9.5 hectares of land between Riverside Drive and Perth Road, has been open to the public since its foundation in 1971 and is regarded as one of the city’s key visitor attractions.

A local campaign group has now formed to fight the proposed cuts in funding and will be meeting Dundee University principal Sir Alan Langlands to discuss the problem.

The Save The Botanic Garden organisation was created after a public meeting at which concerned people gathered to voice displeasure at the shock news of the potential closure. The Save The Botanic Garden group intends to fight the potential withdrawal of funding by lobbying local politicians and university court members, and through public events.

Riverside ward councillor Neil Powrie says he has been inundated with requests for information from residents in the ward about the threat to the garden.

Local councillor Fraser McPherson has said on his blog "I have written to the Secretary of the University of Dundee expressing concern about the future of the Botanic Gardens. Having previously lived next door to the Gardens (at Vernonholme) , I am only too well aware that they are a great asset, not just to the West End, but to the City as a whole. It would be a massive loss if they were threatened."

Members of the public heard from Friends chairman Andrew Morrison that the court of the university is due to meet on February 19 to decide the fate of the garden.

A spokesman for Dundee University said, “We’ll be meeting with the group to discuss ways in which we can become partners in finding a way forward for the garden.”

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