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Wed August 21 2019

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Edinburgh botanic garden to get £70m upgrade

2 Aug Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) has won the backing of city councillors for a £70m initiative designed to safeguard its collections.

Councillors have agreed to support the case for RBGE’s Edinburgh Biomes project, granting planning permission for the scheme.

The project has been approved at a time when the two ‘Grade A’ listed Victorian palm houses and 1960s public and research Glasshouses require substantial restoration and refurbishment. Without urgent action, they would become unsafe and unsound by 2025, said RBGE, putting at risk the collection of 34,000+ plants that they house.

The most visible change will be the addition of a new glasshouse. Its initial purpose will be to provide temporary accommodation for the thousands of plants being decanted for the refurbishment of the public glasshouses. Ultimately, it will become the point of welcome, taking visitors through the modernist Front Range and Victorian Temperate and Tropical Palm Houses.

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The project is planned to take shape through a progression of stages over seven years. The Edinburgh Biomes project will include new research facilities dedicated to combating the increasing numbers of plant pathogens. There will be new education facilities. Central to the improvements will be an energy centre, significantly reducing the garden’s carbon emissions.

Regius keeper Simon Milne said: “As a world-leading botanic garden responding to the climate emergency and the associated alarming loss of biodiversity, we recognise this is an essential, urgent and exciting project of national and international significance, bringing great benefits to society. It is a necessity to avoid the catastrophic loss of up to four thousand species in our collection.

“The planning decision enables us to move forward with what is the most significant project in the garden’s history. The need for our pioneering work has never been greater, be it through cutting-edge science, impactful education or inspiring people with the beauty and value of natural capital. Edinburgh Biomes is crucial to achieve this and the project needs the widest possible support if we are to secure our place as a leader in plant science and education, horticulture and ensure the astonishing Living Collection thrives for future generations. Edinburgh Biomes will engage people of all backgrounds and nationalities, inspiring them to be part of the protection of plant life that sustains and delights us.”

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