Love Gorgie Farm: Edinburgh council leader Cammy Day 'confident' beloved city farm can be rescued

Talks to determine the future of one of Scotland’s last remaining urban farms continue this week with an emergency motion being presented today at council

Council leader Cammy Day said he is ‘confident’ a solution to save Gorgie Farm will be found in the coming days as meetings between the council and prospective bidders continue this week.

Love Gorgie Farm closed its gates indefinitely at 3pm yesterday (January 16) with owners handing the keys back to the council three years after taking over the lease.

The ‘devastating’ news comes after farm operators, Love Learning, reported ‘significant financial challenges’ last year and now leaves around 30 staff facing redundancy, 80 volunteers being dismissed and approximately 100 animals needing rehomed.

The beloved urban farm that opened in 1982 closed its doors yesterday. Farm staff will remain on site until Wednesday (January 18) with plans to relocate animals to neighbouring farms in the coming days.

But today, following several meetings last week, councillor Day will present an emergency motion to the Policy and Sustainability Committee that ‘acknowledges the urgency’ of the situation and ‘gives a formal instruction to the council to negotiate a deal and report back to committee as quickly as possible.’

Councillor Day said: “I am confident that in the coming days we will find a solution that works for the council, for the preferred bidder and the people of Gorgie.”

There are at least four organisations interested in taking over the lease with Edinburgh Zoo, Five Sisters Zoo and East Links Family Park in Dunbar reported to have made proposals.

Cllr Day said: “We are hopeful that one of them will come through with a plan that suits the requirements of the council and the local community to continue Gorgie Farm.”

Campaigners from the Save Gorgie Farm Forever group organised a vigil for the 40-year-old farm that saw support from the local community and Lothian MSPs. Chairman of the campaign, Marin Young, said 150 people have now registered with the campaign and they have been approached by ‘a number of benefactors’ in the last week with £25,000 being pledged by supporters.

Yesterday, a vigil for the valued community asset was organised by campaigners from the Save Gorgie Farm Forever group (SGFF) and saw local residents, families from across Edinburgh and MSPs come out to show their support for the beloved 40-year-old farm.

Speaking at the event in a bid to pressure the council and site managers to reach an agreement, SGFF Chairman, Martin Young said: “The closure is devastating for the community of Gorgie. For local people this is their only large green space – Gorgie doesn’t have a meadows or an Inverleith Park.”

The SGFF chair said following ‘constructive dialogue’ with Cllr Day last Friday he hopes ‘the council will involve the campaign and the community in selecting the next bidders that are coming in.’

Mr Young said he is optimistic about the future adding: “At the moment I don’t think the major problem is necessarily funding, the real problem seems to be the lack of notice and the difficulty of the council taking over an organisation on a short-term basis.”

Lothian MSPs who were involved in the 2019 campaign to save the farm also attended the vigil yesterday. Miles Briggs said: “It’s an incredibly sad day that we’re back at square one and again the farm is in this position.”

Mr Briggs said funding cuts to local government across Scotland has led to ‘difficult conversations’ with Edinburgh council but added they ‘now have an opportunity to look to the future and open up for bids.’ He added he would ‘like to see some sort of emergency funding’ from the government to keep the farm afloat.

Sarah Boyack said the farm is very important to the local community adding ‘there’s something very special about this place.’

Ms Boyack said: “We had a cross party meeting with MSPs and councillors last week and there is support right across the parties – so we must get a solution and not see this farm closed.”

The three-acre farm provided volunteering opportunities to disadvantaged young people and adults and regarded as a pillar of the community where families could visit alpacas, ducks, pigs and sheep in the heart of the city, free of charge.

But in December Love Group management said a combination of rising costs, lack of funding and the pandemic meant they were forced to make the difficult decision to close.