By Cara Sulieman
OSCAR winning Scots actress Tilda Swinton is backing a campaign to save her local garden centre from closure.
But local firm Mackenzie and Cruikshank say the project – which goes to inquiry next week – would force them to close their doors after almost 130 years in business.
The garden centre sits on the site of the new project and will lose land as well being surrounded by engineering works for two years.
Its owners say that would leave them with no option but to shut up shop.
Now Hollywood star Swinton – who is a loyal customer of the shop – has backed their case and now written a letter of support for the business as part of a last ditch attempt to halt plans.
The Chronicles of Narnia star is a keen gardener who lives in her country house near Nairn in Morayshire when she’s home.
With a large fruit and vegetable garden, the actress gets her supplies from the Forres garden centre now under threat.
And Swinton – who described herself as “one devoted M and C patron among thousands” – said that the business was a rare thing and needed to be cherished.
Currently in Connecticut filming for her upcoming film We Need to Talk About Kevin, Swinton wrote: “Mackenzie and Cruikshank is the very heart of Forres.
“There was a time when every small town across Scotland held a shop as loved and cherished.
“For a long while, Forres has been remarkable for retaining this jewel in its crown against all the odds; next year we want to celebrate its 130th birthday.
“For us to lose it at this point would be, not only very sad, but an enormous loss to the identity and integrity of this area as a whole.
“It is incalculable how many other businesses in Forres would suffer if M&C did not exist to draw customers past their doors all day, every day.
“We are confident that Moray Council will come to realise that some – rare – things are worth making adjustments for and either amend the proposed plan which would force Mackenzie and Cruikshank’s permanent closure or undertake to relocate this invaluable Moray business.”
The future of the centre – which includes a café – is now under threat, as is the High Street store the company also runs.
Moray Council approved plans on Tuesday and next week’s public inquiry into the council’s application to the Scottish Government for a flood prevention order is the last chance locals have to save the business.
With 75 locals employed over the two premises and an estimated £1 million brought into the local economy by the company every year, they say any closure would have a huge impact on the area.
Its owner claims that plan will drive customers away and take land away from the outdoor sales area.
Staff are now busy preparing their case for the inquiry and getting as many signatures on the petition as possible, with 5,300 people already showing their support.
The letter from a Hollywood heavyweight, who is also patron of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, is a boost for the employees who are worried about their future.
Thirza Cruickshank is the catering manager at the garden centre and leader of the M & C staff steering group campaigning for the business to be saved.
She said: “It was brilliant and very kind of Tilda Swinton to take the time out to show her support.
“We sent her an email about it and by the end of the week she had emailed us back.
“She comes in to both the stores and shows her friends around.
“We just leave her to it and don’t pester her or anything.
“She is really passionate about it – it is just brilliant.”
She added: “People keep saying we are a great centre of the community. We just want to carry on doing what we are doing.”