Page last updated at 10:22 GMT, Friday, 17 April 2009 11:22 UK

Threat over mental health garden

Solstice nurseries
The project grows plants for sale and provides garden maintenance

A gardening project on the outskirts of Aberdeen which employs people with mental health problems is facing the threat of closure, it has emerged.

Solstice directors said Aberdeen City Council's refusal to formally agree to use the nurseries for work placements has jeopardised the project's future.

Aberdeenshire Council has already agreed to subsidise placements.

But the project has said it can no longer afford to take referrals from the city council free of charge.

Solstice provides training, work experience and care for people recovering from mental illness.

It grows plants for sale and maintains gardens and, as a result, is partially self-funding.

The project, on South Deeside Road, has in the past provided a service free of charge to local authorities and community psychiatric nurses referring people.

'In crisis'

But its bosses have said that to continue providing enough training and support, it needs to have formal agreements in place which would guarantee that when people are referred to the project the local authority would subsidise their place.

It has already secured this with the local authority in Aberdeenshire but the majority of the people who take part in the project are from the Aberdeen City Council area, which has so far declined to put the agreement in place.

Aberdeen South MP Anne Begg is visiting staff to hear their concerns.

She said: "Solstice is a project that provides work and social fabric for men and women who have fairly profound mental health problems.

"Without their work at Solstice they could find themselves back in hospital, back on drugs or back in crisis because of the state of their health.

"The city council would have to then provide them with daycare or support.

"The people are happy where they work - many have been there for years - and it would be a travesty if it had to close."

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