Edinburgh council votes to fund Gorgie Farm short-term rescue

Edinburgh city councillors have voted to use £250k of grant funding in a last-ditch attempt to save Gorgie Farm.

Council voted to use grant funding to move two employees over to council payroll
Council voted to use grant funding to move two employees over to council payroll

The farm closed to the public on Monday (January 16) after charity Love Learning announced it was walking away over funding troubles and the cost of living crisis.

Edinburgh council leader confirmed officials were now looking into the ‘liability’ of Love Learning relating to the terms of their contract with the council, which could help delay plans to remove the farm’s resident animals.

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The charity has accused the council of ‘forcing’ them to remain in lease.

A number of other organisations, including Edinburgh Zoo, have signalled their interest in playing a part in its future running, but it could take months before a solution is found.

Councillors instructed officials on Tuesday to use £250,000 remaining in a discretionary grant fund set up to help businesses during during the pandemic to rescue the attraction in the short-term.

An amendment to a motion tabled by council leader Cammy Day regretting the farm’s closure said two full time staff members should be transferred to the council’s payroll with council funds also used for any running costs.

It came after staff, volunteers and locals devastated at the closure gathered shortly before the gates were shut on Monday, with many calling on the council to step-up and find a way to ensure the site is maintained and animals remain on the farm in the meantime.

However Edinburgh City Council chief executive Andrew Kerr questioned the legality of transfer of employment and whether it was “the right solution”.

He warned it may not be possible to and may also threaten any considerable bid.

“I’ll have a look at this, as long as we can do it within the £250,000 that’s left in the delegated grant. That does mean there will be a limit on the time we can do this without a council decision.”

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Farm staff’s employment is due to end on Wednesday (January 18) whilst its understood the process of transporting animals to nearby farms and zoo’s, for temporary re-homing, has already begun.

Cllr Day said this could be “up for a challenge,” however, commenting there were “ongoing legal discussions about the liability of Love Edinburgh”.

He added: “They have a legal contract with the council and I understand that they can’t just walk away from a legal contract we have with them.

“That’s one of the many ongoing discussions between the council and Love’s representatives.”

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“I think the date Love might want to remove animals is up for a challenge. ”

Following the vote, he said: “This interim measure to try and find a legal route round TUPEing staff, I’m sure we’ll be caught in some legal debate about whether we can or should do that – but of course we will try to achieve that best we can for a few weeks that keeps animals on site looked after until we find a new operator.

“The most important thing for me is to make sure we get a new operator because if not then the farm will fail and the animals will go into care somewhere else.”