There seems no doubt that both the Brogdale Horticultural Trust and MAFF, now Defra, regarded Brogdale as the permanent site for the National Fruit Collections in 1990 when the Trust bought the site and in 2000 when it was sold to Hillreed. That was the position taken when the Friends of Brogdale constitution was drafted. But now the Trust has said that it wants to see the Collections moved. So, as Robert White asked in a recent post why is there a ‘U-Turn over Brogdale by Brogdale Horticultural Trust?’ And doesn’t that mean that the Trust has no right to be involved in plans that seek to relocate the Collections away from Brogdale?
The aims of the Brogdale Horticultural Trust as displayed on the Charity Commission web site are as follows.
The Trust was established in order:
to advance the education of the public in the art and science of horticulture;
to undertake research into all aspects of growth cultivation, utilisation and nutritional
properties of fruit trees, bushes and other plants producing edible products;
to disseminate the useful results of such research for the public benefit; and to preserve the collections.
The place where this work should be carried out and the site of ‘the collections’ is not specified. However, the Trust’s aims are spelt out in the constitution of the Friends of the Brogdale Horticultural Trust, drawn up by the Trust in 2001 to gain more control of the Friends, and here there is more detail on the Trust’s conservation activities. The Friends’ constitution opens with the following statement.
The aims of the Brogdale Horticultural Trust are:
Conservation – to progress its fruit conservation centre which provides the permanent location for the National Fruit Collections and other collections of temperate fruits.
These are also the aims of the Friends of Brogdale.
What was understood by the ‘fruit conservation centre’ at this time was unequivocally Brogdale. The Friends had already been in existence for 11 years, being founded shortly after the Trust was established in 1990. There would have been no doubt in any Friend’s mind that Brogdale was the permanent location for the National Fruit Collections. This is what they had been formed to support, this is what they had been committed to for the past 11 years and this was what they were continuing to support under the constitution.
We also have the evidence contained in a letter between the Head of Research Policy and International Division at MAFF responsible for the National Fruit Collections and Swale Borough Council dated 6 May 1999 (Swale Borough Council Planning Application No SW/99/0087, which we have quoted in a previous post). This letter confirms MAFF’s approval of Hillreed as a purchaser of the land and future landlord. There is also clearly no doubt on MAFF’s part that Brogdale is the permanent home of the Collections. It states that: ‘ The management arrangements involve a contract with Brogdale Horticultural Trust to pay for the maintenance, husbandry and upkeep of the National Fruit Collection on the 50 leased acres at Brogdale Farm.’ ’The Ministry’s lease runs from 7 June 1998 and expires on 6 June 2016 … [and] we would plan to commence negotiations for a new lease in the year 2010. …. Our present intention is to re-negotiate/renew the current lease.’ …… ‘Hillreed Homes …. readily agreed to the protection and extension of our current lease arrangements in respect of the National Fruit Collection.’ MAFF regarded Brogdale as the the Collections home then and for the foreseeable future. By continuing the Trust’s maintenance contract, this remained their view and that of the Trust in 2001, when the Friends’ constitution was drawn up by the Trust.
The Friends of Brogdale were explicitly bound by the Trust to remain tied to the Collections at Brogdale. None of this, of course, affects Defra’s right to move the Collections if they wish. But good faith would surely bind the Trust itself to Brogdale, morally if not in the strict letter of the law. What a shame that such a distinction has to be made. One cannot believe that any Friend would see it otherwise. And, indeed, how can the Trust ask its Friends to support this move when it is against their own constitution?