It has entered into a pre-construction agreement to begin work on the Edinburgh Biomes initiative. The first stage includes a plant health centre, energy centre and associated infrastructure. Balfour Beatty will carry out pre-construction activity over the spring and summer, with construction works beginning in the autumn.
The Scottish government has made a major contribution to the costs of the first five years of the seven-year project comes by providing £58m of funding, of which £50m is from the Low Carbon Fund. The development is in step with the changes required to achieve the goal of making Scotland net-zero by 2045.
Restoration of public glasshouses will be at the heart of Edinburgh Biomes and an operation is already under way to decant plant material in preparation for the works. New research glasshouses will also be constructed and a new public glasshouse will welcome visitors.
The project secured planning permission in 2019.
Collectively, the works are designed to enhance RBGE’s contribution to addressing the biodiversity crisis and climate emergency.
Hector MacAulay, Balfour Beatty managing director for Scotland and Ireland, said: “We are delighted to be partnered with the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh to deliver this most significant and historic project. Balfour Beatty is fully committed to playing its part in safeguarding the plant collection for the future and delivering the new world-class facilities which are of international importance in terms of biodiversity conservation.”
Regius keeper Simon Milne, who has led the five-year drive to reach this point explained: “The Edinburgh Biomes is an initiative of enormous significance and, from now, it brings seven years of incredibly hard and exciting work, changes to the way we engage with all our stakeholders and flexibility in how we operate. There is a requirement for an immense programme of public engagement and unapparelled fundraising to reach our ultimate goal.
“The living plant collection, at the core of the work of the garden, is of global importance in addressing the biodiversity crisis. Here, we hold in care species endangered and even extinct in their natural habitats – many of which are yet to be fully scientifically described and formally named. Intrinsic to this is the growing imperative for greater public engagement, bringing people of all ages and outlooks along on the unavoidable and inspirational journey to protect the planet for future generations.”
Environment and climate change secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “Through the Low Carbon Fund, we have been able to fulfil a Programme for Government commitment to support the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh in its transition to net zero and to secure its status as a national and international centre for science, horticulture and learning. By improving the energy efficiency of the Garden’s iconic Glasshouses and the construction of the new facilities, not only will it be an important step towards a low carbon future but will also support good, green jobs and preservation of the national living plant collection.”