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National Fruit Collection

Volume 470: debated on Wednesday 23 January 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what plans he has for the future administration, finance and control of Brogdale and of the UK's special fruit tree collection; and if he will make a statement; (180194)

(2) what criteria his Department will use to estimate best value when considering tenders to provide long-term relocation of the fruit collection at Brogdale; and what independent scientific and horticultural advice on those criteria was received by the Department;

(3) what assessment his Department has made of the potential risks of re-propagation and removal of the fruit tree collection at Brogdale to any new site;

(4) what private companies are involved in the control of the national fruit collection at Brogdale; what scientific evidence is available on the costs and benefits of a relocation of the collection; and if he will publish this evidence.

[holding answer 21 January 2008]: The National Fruit Collection is currently maintained by the Brogdale Horticultural Trust and scientifically curated by Imperial College.

In response to an open competition, which allowed DEFRA to look at all the available options for the future of the collections, tenders were received and assessed by expert peer reviewers and an internal selection panel. The selection process also included visits to all prospective sites and presentations from the applicants. The selection process was carried out in line with the guidelines set out in DEFRA’s Science Handbook.

Any potential relocation of the collection was considered to be a relatively low risk procedure as there are a number of suitable locations in the UK for growing fruit trees. The whole collection was moved successfully from Wisley to Brogdale in the 1950s, and fruit trees are regularly re-propagated as a matter of course.

On 19 December 2007, DEFRA announced the Collections would remain at Brogdale for the foreseeable future. From 1 April 2008, the maintenance and curation of the collection will be managed by the University of Reading, subject to agreement with the landlord to extend the lease at Brogdale.