Edinburgh Gorgie Farm set for closure in 2023 due to 'serious financial challenges'
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Gorgie Farm's future hangs in balance once again and could be forced to close doors in the new year without lifeline cash. Owners announced on Friday (December 30) their intention to return the lease of the farm to Edinburgh council as it was revealed the project is operating at a deficit of £150,000.
Workers were informed the farm is facing "significant financial challenges" and Love, which runs the community project, will begin a period of formal consultation with staff on 4 January 2023.
Love Group director Lynn Bell said the company had to sustain the farm without financial support from the City of Edinburgh Council since 2020.
Love CEO, Lynn Bell, said: “We have tried everything to avoid this situation, however with Covid and now cost of living crisis we do not believe we are able to support the Farm alone moving forward.
“The support for Gorgie Farm from the public has been tremendous, and I would like to thank every single person who has supported the Farm over the last few years. Gorgie Farm is unique, and it has the potential to deliver so much for so many.
"We know that changes could be made to raise funds and support wider Council objectives around looked after children and tackling poverty, but we are not able to take this proposal forward unaided. A partnership approach has always been central to our plans, but this partnership has not materialised. While we have had many positive individual conversations ultimately there is a need for detailed discussions and agreements to allow the redesign of the Farms operations to meet wider needs.”
The farm – which is home to goats, alpacas, pigs, sheep, ducks, chickens, rabbits, ferrets, and guinea pigs – was brought back from brink in 2019 after a fundraising campaign backed by Evening News which saw public and other donations pour in of more than £100,000.
Prior to the pandemic it was supported by a City of Edinburgh Council grant of £100,000 a year. Since the Love Group took over it says it hasn't been supported with any council funds and claims the council hasn't provided information on how they can apply for grant funding.
The farm is being subsidised by other parts of the Love Group, which took on the lease from council after previous owners wound up. Now the charity says the crowdfunded money was enough to 'paper over the cracks' but without investment the farm is unable to support itself through existing or projected donations.
The Love Group said it had written to the council on the 6 December requesting urgent discussions on the future of the farm and its role as owner of the facility. Bosses at the social enterprise have outlined plans for a more 'sustainable model' that would require investment to convert buildings for use to respite accommodation. This would provide short breaks to children with additional support needs or who are looked after in care.
‘They’re not alone in feeling the devastating effects of the pandemic’
Reacting to the news, Edinburgh council leader Cammy Day said: “It’s really sad to hear Gorgie Farm is in financial difficulty. 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. We’ve already discussed potential new operating models with them and are due to meet again early next month.
“The capital city of Edinburgh remains the lowest-funded local authority in Scotland. As a result, our city and the essential services we provide remain under immense pressure. This is exacerbated in our 2023/24 budgets that are looking at at least £70 million of cuts from the Scottish Government leaving us to face some extremely difficult decisions as we look to set budgets for the coming year.”