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Page last updated at 07:31 GMT, Thursday, 26 August 2010 08:31 UK
Funding cuts jeopardise future of mental health garden
Growing Together garden in Southend
The Growing Together garden has been in existence for a decade

A garden that provides "horticultural therapy" for people with mental health problems is facing an uncertain future.

Up to 70 people use the 'Growing Together' project in Southend, which is run by the Trust Links charity.

But a reduction in funds from the local borough council and PCT and the end of lottery grants means they are having to re-evaluate what they can provide.

"It's a significant loss of funding we're going to be hit by," said the project's Maureen Frewin.

"It's well over £100,000 which is our running costs each year."

She added: "I believe if it's a good quality service, there is still money available for it.

"We need to actually persuade the powers that be that we're worth investing in, albeit on a slightly lower level than in the past."

The project, on approximately one acre of land off Prittlewell Chase, has a variety of plots attended to by people with a variety of mental heath problems, such as depression, anxiety and schizophrenia.

It also provide training for an NVQ in horticulture.

"It gives them the opportunity of working outside in a horticultural, 'therapeutic' environment, which has been proven to help people with a whole range of mental health problems," said Maureen.

"If people can work in the outside environment, it actually helps them to find some peace with the turmoil they're currently undergoing, so the garden gives them that."

Maureen explained whatever measures they would need to take, they were determined to not let the garden close all together.

Growing Together garden in Southend
The garden has a number of floral and vegetable plots

"As an organisation we've got to restructure and slim down, because we want to ensure that whatever happens in relation to funding the garden is still here."

Southend Borough Council told BBC Essex they have given Trust Links £15,000 in previous years, but were asked for £40,000 by the charity this year.

Although officials recommended they should still get the £15,000 as in previous years, the elected members of the Grant Strategy Working Party decided to award £10,000 this time round.

They added they looked at each year's requests individually, and whilst they did their best, they could not make up shortfalls from funding from other sources.

They did, however, continue to support the scheme by charging a peppercorn rent for the use of the land.

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