GEILSTON Garden in Cardross will remain open for at least another year while the visitor attraction’s owners carry out further investigations into its long-term future.

Trustees at a board meeting of the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) decided last week that they needed more time to explore the consequences of four possible courses of action set out by an external consultant in an ‘options appraisal’ in June.

The garden’s future has been shrouded in uncertainty since 2017 when the NTS said the losses it was making were no longer sustainable.

Announcing news that the garden would remain open in 2020, the NTS also revealed that losses at Geilston had risen from around £90,000 to more than £111,000 in the last financial year, despite intensive efforts by the Trust and the Friends of Geilston support group to promote it as a visitor destination.

NTS chief executive Simon Skinner said: “Our Trustees were presented with a difficult set of choices.

READ MORE: Crunch date looms for Geilston as Friends lobby National Trust for Scotland's AGM

“On the one hand, Geilston is of limited heritage value and is not inalienable, meaning the Trust is free to dispose of it.

"On the other, it is a valued local amenity and we feel obliged to find a practical way forward.

“Our Board agreed that we must drill down deeper into the options and it will take at least another year to do this."

The Trust says the garden attracts a low number of visitors – around 11,000 per year – and that less than 10 per cent of them pay at the gate for entry, "despite intensive efforts to promote it as a visitor destination".

In August 2016, Trustees had concluded that the position was unsustainable and instructed that Geilston House, which has never been open to the public, and potentially the garden, could be put up for sale.

READ MORE: Trust 'considering the future' of Geilston Garden (from June 2017)

The house and garden were originally acquired on the understanding that they could be sold on to accrue income for the charity’s conservation work, but instead the Trust opened the garden as a visited property in the late 1990s.

Mr Skinner continued: “In the interim, the Trust will appoint a land agent to determine the market interest in an enabling development, with a view to generating the funds needed to restore the house.

“In the meantime, the garden will remain open as it is and will be accessible to the community.”

Geilston House is in poor condition and it has been estimated that £2 million or more would be needed to put it into a fit state for alternative uses.

Following representations by the Friends of Geilston group, the Trust agreed to work with them to investigate the options for the property’s future.

READ MORE: Campaigners take heart after MSPs hear of Geilston Garden fears

An options appraisal was produced by an external consultant in June 2019 and this set out four possible courses of action:

– Sale of the full site and buildings;

– Partial sale of the site and/or buildings that would ensure at least part of the estate would remain accessible to the community;

– The Trust retaining the full site and seeking external funds to refurbish the house;

– The Trust retaining the site but releasing some of the estate for enabling developments that would fund the garden into the future.

It had also been suggested that the National Trust for Scotland could hand the property to a community trust that would find it easier to access support from grant-giving bodies, but the Friends of Geilston rejected that option.

Given this, the charity’s Trustees concluded that options that involved a possible enabling development offered a realistic way forward and should be subject to further consideration.

READ MORE: Click here to read all the latest news headlines from around Helensburgh and Lomond