The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) has announced details of its planned £40m (approx) Masterplan development project, following the release of a £1.5m fund from the Scottish Government, announced in July as part of its £26m funding package to create a greener Scotland.
The £1.5m cash injection from the Scottish Government will be used for early completion of some essential elements of a much larger-scale project. At present, it is thought that this enabling work will include some refurbishment work, to include the damaged Glasshouses along with construction of a ‘decanting’ facility which will be used as a temporary location for some of the living collection during later development works, and will provide a legacy space for future use.
These smaller projects lead into the RBGE ‘Masterplan’, which is a plan to redevelop the north east quarter of the Edinburgh Garden, encompassing five key areas of RBGE’s work.
- Creation of the Scottish School of Botany & Horticulture, allowing RBGE to retain and expand Scottish knowledge in the botanical and horticulture fields, by providing formal education facilities, to deliver programmes for Scottish Colleges and Universities as well as the wide range of learners from primary school children up to post-graduate students. It will also increase RBGE’s capacity for Scottish (e.g. National Trust for Scotland), UK and international partnerships and global remote learning through use of state of the art technology. The RBGE’s aim is to deliver a diverse range of ‘cradle to grave’ education programmes, with the capacity to increase learning opportunities (many of which are currently oversubscribed) by approx. 80% compared to the current programme.
- Maximized infrastructure to support RBGE’s internationally recognised scientific research, through better organised modern facilities, creating a more efficient research function in one place as opposed to five different sites. The Masterplan will deliver stable and secure facilities in which to carry out an increased amount of experimental lab work, and will protect an internationally important research collection, parts of which are currently at risk of perishing due to failing infrastructure.
- Refurbishment of the historic Glasshouses for future enjoyment and scientific purposes, as well as reinstatement, using modern technology, of some of the original features of the Tropical Palm House. The Tropical Palm house is the RBGE's oldest Glasshouse, built in 1834 at a cost of £1,500.
- Creation of new, state-of-the-art Glasshouses, on the site of the current research houses through a mix of refurbishment of existing structures, complete refit (eg: glass replacement) and demolition and rebuild. The existing research Glasshouses were built over the 1960s and 1970s and were only meant to last for 20 years. The project will utilise new technology to develop highly efficient and strong structures that don’t ‘leak’ energy, resulting in a reduction in energy consumption of between 35-50% - leading to a significantly reduced carbon footprint, lower maintenance costs, and a better use of on-site resources.
- Improved visitor experience within the Glasshouses, creating a truly engaging visitor destination, including enhanced facilities such as toilets and disabled access. The visitor experience will also benefit from more public engagement with the scientific work of RBGE, and improved access to the living collections – allowing the public to see the real work that goes on at the Edinburgh Garden. Additional corporate and entertainment facilities in better organised Glasshouses will add to the commerciality of the space, and it is expected that the refurbishment and remodelling will attract around 40% more visitors within two years of completion.
Professor Stephen Blackmore, Regius Keeper for RBGE said: “Recently we had the welcome news that £1.5m funding was being released by the Scottish Government, allowing us to start some essential enabling work. However, these works are the all-important first steps in our exciting plans for Edinburgh. The Masterplan will be one of the most significant developments in our long history, and its development will allow us to secure Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh as a globally recognised scientific, public, education and corporate destination for generations to come.”
Now that funding is in place for some of the essential works, next steps for RBGE will be to secure individual planning permissions for these elements; to begin engagement with local residents and groups to share and shape the Masterplan; and to refine the current plans, allowing a detailed planning application for the full Masterplan to be submitted in 2013.
If approved, it is intended that the full project would be funded by a mix of Government funding and fundraising.