Bids for the future management of the National Fruit Collections were received by Defra for the second revised tender on 21 September 2007.
Rumour has it that another bidder has emerged and that there are now five competing for the new contract. It is also rumoured that three of these five bidders wish to keep the collections at Brogdale, which is excellent news. The balance is in favour of ‘no move’.
However, Defra have not modified their intent to consider relocation in the new tender document. Nor have they changed their views in a letter received by Alan Rowe via his MP from Lord Rooker and dated 19 September.
Defra has not made any decision to move the collection from its existing site at Brogdale, Lord Rooker states, but then later comments: The collection could move from Brogdale as a consequence of a current open competition. This is not a problem, as there are a number of suitable locations in the UK. The South, South-East and Midlands all have fruit growing industries and would, therefore, have the right growing conditions. Moving trees and bushes is relatively straightforward, indeed the whole collection was moved from Wisley to Brogdale in the 1950s and fruit trees are regularly repropagated as a matter of course.
The possibility that the Collections may be moved away from Brogdale remains. And given other comments in this letter one can assume that Lord Rooker has not moved his position as of last May at all!
Lord Rooker writes: The collection is currently maintained by Brogdale Horticultural Trust but they do not own the land, have limited access to site, and the lease between Defra and the landlord runs out in 2016. As Lord Rooker himself acknowledged in a letter to Jim Streeton in July the future of the Collections is in no way linked to the fortunes or desires of the Trust: The Trust cannot move the Collection since they do not own them and therefore do not have the authority to do so.
As to the lease between Defra and the landlord, Defra have an automatic right to renew this lease to 2041 and furthermore the landlord has informed Defra that he will renew the lease to 2050, which Lord Rooker recognised in a letter to Georgina Connors in July: Prior to the publication of the specification for the open competition Defra did not receive formal notification from the landlord that the lease could be extended till 2050.[ie before the first tender was published in January.] Clearly this option will be taken into account when a decision on the open competition is made.
Without doubt, we need to remind Defra of the strength of our opposition to any possibility of taking the Collections away from Brogdale. We should write again stressing that there is no good reason to relocate the Collections. They are fine at Brogdale – thriving and secure, backed by 50 years of unique records. The ten good reasons for keeping the Collections at Brogdale still hold and we print them below.
Please write to Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Lord Rooker, who continues to be responsible for the National Fruit Collections, at Defra, Nobel House, 17 Smith Square, London SW1P 3JR.
Please write also to your own MP and the MP for Faversham, Hugh Robertson at the House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA.
(See the following posts for the quotes and further discussions: The New Defra Tender; Brogdale Site for National Fruit Collections Secure to 2041; The National Fruit Collections – no good reason to move them!)
Ten Good Reasons for Keeping the National Fruit Collections at Brogdale
1. The Brogdale site is ideal for a fruit collection from both the point of view of horticulture and history; a situation not necessarily found elsewhere. Brogdale has the deep fertile soils needed for fruit growing. The site is near the sea giving some protection from spring frosts. East Kent receives maximum sunshine for the UK. East Kent also has centuries of history in fruit and our oldest fruit growing area.
2. The Collections have long term security at Brogdale. The owner of Brogdale , Tony Hillier of Hillreed, has told Defra that he will extend the lease on the land on which the Collections grow to 2050.
3. To move the Collections would put them at risk. Varieties may be lost. The Collections may be dispersed destroying their unique feature – a wide range of fruits all growing on one site. The Collections may be conserved in a different way – as cordons rather than bush trees, for example, and Defra is keen to explore the possibilities of cryopreservation, which would mean no living trees at all.
4. At a new location they may not be open to the public.
5. To move them would involve huge expense and time – a minimum of five years and probably ten years to re-propagate, plant and verify the new collections.
6. The Collections are not in need of re-propagation. The Cherry, Plum, Bush Fruit and Nut Collections have all recently been re-propagated and verified (with the exception of the nuts) as part of the routine schedule of husbandry. They are all cropping well and in their prime for at least another 20-30 years, similarly the Vine Collection. The Pear Collection has been re-propagated and ready to be planted. The Apple Collection is coming up for renewal but could wait for another five years.
7. The National Fruit Collections have been growing at Brogdale for 50 years and have 50 years of continuous records. This is an unique record for any fruit collection anywhere in the world and provides invaluable information for research studies on fruit growing in relation to climate change.
8. The Collections have 50 years of international reputation and good will at Brogdale. No other country has a central national collection of fruit; it is the envy of the world. European collections are considerably smaller and dispersed. The US has large collections but these are located in different places – the apples in New York, the pears in Oregon, for example.
9. Brogdale and the Collections are associated both nationally and internationally. To move them would destroy the link for the general public and the fruit specialist. It would take years to regain this precious asset.
10. The Collections are fine where they are – flourishing and secure. Moving the Collections is unjustified, unnecessary and a great waste of public money.
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