A POPULA R visitor attraction near Helensburgh WILL re-open to the public next spring, its owners have promised.

Campaigners hoping to secure the long-term future of Geilston Garden in Cardross expressed fears that the attraction would be permanently closed at the end of its 2017 summer season in October.

But the Friends of Geilston say they are still concerned at the National Trust for Scotland's management of the facility – after it emerged that money set aside in the Trust's accounts for Geilston's upkeep had been transferred to the organisation's General Income Fund.

Alison Hillis from the Friends of Geilston told the Advertiser: “Keith Halstead, the Trust's head of special projects, has told us the garden will reopen next March as usual and that current access will be maintained until any decision is made otherwise.

“It's not secure forever but at least we now know it will reopen next spring.”

The NTS announced in June that it was “considering the future” of Geilston because of losses of £85,000 a year – which it described as “unsustainable”.

Ms Hillis said: “The Trust is now talking about setting up some kind of advisory forum or formal consultation process with the wider community, which we welcome, but there are still a lot of issues that completely unresolved, such as the funding set aside for Geilston.

“In the Trust's 2016 accounts there was £2.581 million set aside for the maintenance of Geilston House and Gardens, but the 2017 accounts show that this money has been transferred in to the Trust's general income fund 'to support the Trust's ongoing activities'.

“We are still worried that the Trust is taking everything it can away from Geilston and leaving it in a very precarious state.”

When the Trust announced in June that it was “considering the future” of the garden, Mr Halstead warned that “the status quo is untenable”.

The results of his review, along with any “viable proposals” for the garden's future, are due to be presented to the Trust's board in October.

Mr Halstead told the Advertiser: “We have received a very detailed submission from Ms Alison Hillis and we thank her for it.  We will treat it as a formal submission to the review of Geilston House and Garden that is due to conclude later this year.

“We will consider this submission as part of the review process and respond in full to it and the others we have received when we draw up our findings. 

“To that end, we have agreed to meet with Ms Hillis and her colleagues in order to explore some of their comments further.

“To be absolutely clear, no decision has been taken about the future management of the garden and the purpose of the review is to come up with viable options that may be taken forward in due course. 

“The garden will open in the spring of next year as normal.

“Although our review is far from complete, we do have to correct some inaccuracies that are being shared. 

“When the late Elizabeth Hendry bequeathed the house and garden to the Trust, she was already aware that we at that time had no plans to open either to the public. 

“The then NTS Director confirmed this to her in person when they met in 1988. 

“Nevertheless, she left the property to the Trust on a completely unrestricted basis with no conditions whatsoever.

“It was the Trust that later chose to open the garden to the public – there were never any proposals to open up the house – and it was the Trust that chose to use residue from the estate, as well as subsidies from our general income, to meet Geilston’s deficit.

“There never has been an endowment fund for Geilston.”