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BBC Wales's Ashleigh Crowter
"Nearly 200,000 people have passed through its gates in the last nine months - well ahead of expectations"
 real 56k

Thursday, 15 February, 2001, 21:21 GMT
Funding call for botanic attraction
Glasshouse at Llanarthne
The garden has been a huge hit with tourists
Scientists are demanding Wales's newest tourist attraction - the National Botanic Garden - is given vital funding to aid its research work.

A report from the Institute of Welsh Affairs says the garden at Llanarthne in Carmarthenshire, is the only site in the world not to have a large annual state subsidy.

The 44m centre - built with the aid of a Millennium Lottery grant - has developed into one of the country's biggest success stories since it opened last May.

In comparison Kew Gardens in London receives 16m a year in government subsidy - and its equivalent in Scotland gets more than 5m in annual subsidy.

Inside the Llanarthne glasshouse
Plants from all over the world fill the greenhouse

It has also become a popular attraction with 200,000 visitors in the past nine months - but is also the base for scientific research into plants and fungi.

But the reports authors say funding from the National Assembly is essential if it is to develop a serious scientific operation with international standing.

Scientists have said the Welsh site must receive similar funding for research to make a clear statement that the site is more than just a glorified garden festival.

One of the important projects in the pipeline is research into the Wales's fiftiest rarest plants.

Meanwhile, the garden has been chosen as one of the top three EU-funded projects in the UK by the Minister for Europe, Keith Vaz MP.

Gardeners at work
The botanic garden is also a centre for research
The garden - which has had substantial European funding - was nominated by Welsh Euro MPs Glenys Kinnock and Eluned Morgan for the European Parliamentary Labour Party's Europe Award.

It is due be presented at the Labour Party's Spring Conference in Glasgow on Saturday.

The award aims to demonstrate how European investment in the UK makes a real difference, by showing people good examples of how local areas have won and used European funds.

Labour Euro MPs across the UK nominated projects from their regions.

Glenys Kinnock said she was delighted that the National Botanic Garden has been judged one of the top three EU-funded projects in the UK.

"The European Award recognises the most effective use of European funding, and the National Botanic Garden of Wales is a clear example of that," she said.

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