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£1m losses close wilting flower research site

A horticultural research site operated by the University of Warwick is to close after recording losses of more than £1 million.

The 120-acre site in Kirton, Lincolnshire, is operated by Warwick Horticulture Research International (HRI), a university department focusing on research and teaching in plant and environmental sciences.

The site's operating costs have consistently exceeded income from commercial and public research funding. It is currently operating at an annual loss of £280,000, with total losses exceeding £1 million since 2004.

Warwick announced that it would be closing the site and told ten staff, none of whom hold academic posts, that their jobs were at risk. A spokesman said the university was in consultation with those affected and was also having discussions with funding and research bodies to see whether another organisation might want to take over the troubled project.

The site, which undertakes research on cut flowers and broccoli, was taken on by Warwick HRI four years ago from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

It is expected that operations will continue into early 2009, when the university will have explored all available options, including putting the site to new use.

A Warwick spokesman said a second horticultural research site taken on from Defra in 2004 at Wellesbourne, in Warwickshire, had its "continuing support".

Nigel Thrift, vice-chancellor of Warwick, said he had "noted how quickly and effectively the research teams at Wellesbourne had formed highly effective partnerships with a range of university departments".

The Wellesbourne research teams "bring together a unique package of multidisciplinary expertise to research and help solve major challenges in areas such as crop science, bio-energy, systems biology and climate change," Professor Thrift added.

john.gill@tsleducation.com.

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