Prince Charles has been given the green light to build a new school for farming in Scotland that will aim to draw in people who have no connection to agriculture to learn traditional skills including one of his private passions: hedgelaying.
Planners have granted approval for an education centre at Home Farm at Dumfries House, the East Ayshire Palladian mansion operated by the Prince’s Foundation, one of Charles’ charities, after he stepped in to help save it in 2007.
About 1,800 teenagers, school leavers and adult learners are expected to pass through the education centre each year. The move cements the heir to the throne’s continuing interest in rural affairs that observers expect him to continue to champion when he becomes king. It will also teach drystone walling and butchery and will include barns to teach livestock handling.
Charles’ involvement with Dumfries House has recently led him to become mired in a donations for honours row. Scotland Yard is investigating allegations that a Saudi donor to the Prince’s Foundation was offered help to secure a knighthood.
Clarence House has said the Prince of Wales had no knowledge of the alleged offer of honours on the basis of donations to his charities.
The teaching complex, to be built at Home Farm on the 2,000-acre Scottish estate, will be built with materials salvaged or sourced locally, such as larch cladding boards. The south-facing part of the “education shed” will be covered with photovoltaic panels, with ground source heat pumps supplying warmth.
“The underlying principle is to bring new talent into the farming and rural sector, specifically targeting those with no current connection to it,” said a design statement submitted to planners. “Delivery would be hands-on and practical, allowing students to immerse themselves in their subject area, giving them maximum opportunity to grow their knowledge, skills and passion for the industry”.
Charles is chairman of the National Hedgelaying Society and has spent time practising the art on his own farm near Highgrove in Gloucestershire.
In a speech to the society last December, he said: “Their ability to sequester carbon, help prevent flooding and soil erosion whilst providing stock control, shelter, green corridors and an abundance of food and protection for wildlife, make our hedgerows as precious a natural asset to our planet as any other I have experienced. And this is without recording their immense historical or cultural value as living history with some 30 different styles of hedgelaying to be seen across Britain.”
“This development will allow The Prince’s Foundation to carry out important work in agricultural education at an impressive new facility next to Home Farm on Dumfries House estate, our headquarters,” said Gordon Neil, an executive director of the Prince’s Foundation.
“Our charity already practises and passes on traditional and rural skills, and this new development will build on our work to encourage the next generation to learn such skills and consider careers in rural industries.”