CAMPAIGNERS fighting to keep a historic garden site in public hands have threatened to chain themselves to its gates after being told they face eviction and will have their power supply cut by its owners.
The Friends of Suntrap group, which occupies the B-listed Millbuies House and gardens, received a letter from joint owners Oatridge College on Wednesday informing them they would have to leave by the end of the month and warning that the electricity supply would be cut.
The news comes after the city council last month agreed to launch an appeal to the Scottish government to keep the site in educational use.
At the time, Oatridge College told the Evening News it was prepared to discuss the campaigners’ business plan, which would see the site become a heritage, gardening and education centre.
The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) has already put the grounds adjacent to the house, which it owns, up for sale.
Campaigners today said they would resist any move to evict them, with city council bosses confirming they would urge the college to give Friends of Suntrap more time to raise funds necessary to purchase the site.
Scottish Government officials said that the college would have to notify them of an intention to sell but denied they had blocking powers.
Isobel Lodge, secretary of Friends of Suntrap, said: “If we do have to move out then certainly I intend to have a demonstration. I will chain myself to the gate and I expect I will be surrounded by others.
“This came out of the blue. We felt quite positive before, when the council said it would back us, and I asked our consultant to renegotiate with the college. We were hopeful.
“We thought that with Oatridge and the support of the city council, they really wouldn’t be able to sell it if there was a change of use.
“It is a complete change of attitude from them – very shocking, given what they had said to the newspapers and given what their agents had led us to believe.
“We feel very angry and I would ask the college to reconsider their action in a sensible way and allow us to continue with our community activity and give us another six months to get the funds together.”
A city council spokeswoman said: “Unfortunately, our power to intervene in this situation is very limited.
“However, we are committed to supporting the continued use of Millbuies as an educational facility.
We will pursue this issue with both NTS and Oatridge College to request a delay of six months on any further moves, to allow Friends of Suntrap one final opportunity to produce a viable alternative plan.
“We are also pursuing an appeal to the Scottish Government for their intervention.”
Bosses at Oatridge College confirmed they would press ahead with the sale of Millbuies House and said they had given campaigners plenty of time to put together a business proposal.
Assistant principal Des Martin said: “As no such viable business plan has been forthcoming and given the decision of the National Trust for Scotland to put their portion of the Suntrap site up for sale, the board of management of Oatridge College has decided to follow their example and offer the remainder of the site for sale on the open market.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Colleges operate independently of government. Ministers have no powers to compel a college to retain an asset which it judges surplus to its requirements.”