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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 December, 2003, 18:47 GMT
Prince's hope for botanic garden salvation
A meeting between trustees and administrators is arranged for Monday

The Prince of Wales has added his voice to the campaign to save the National Botanic Garden.

BBC Wales Today revealed on Thursday that the Prince has been closely watching the situation, and in a statement to the programme said he "very much hopes a situation can be found to allow the garden to remain open".

The beleaguered botanic garden at Llanarthne in Carmarthenshire, is likely to come under the control of administrators within days, after the Welsh assembly refused to hand over a 3m rescue package to trustees.

Middleton, as the garden is known, has only three trading days left before it closes in its present form.

But it is uncertain whether the garden will close for good or whether new investors will be found.

On Sunday it will no longer be a charity run by trustees and an emergency meeting has been called for Monday to hand control of the garden's finances to administrators.

But it is unclear whether it will go into immediate liquidation after the leader of the local council suggested the garden could reopen in the near future.

Carmarthenshire Council Leader Meryl Gravell said she could confirm talks had been held with other interested parties who were prepared to keep the garden open provided it could be reshaped to attract more visitors.

There is not enough strength there as an attraction to attract them back time after time
Jonathan Jones, WTB

She said: "There are people out there in the private sector who will come in and take the garden forward for a long-term sustainable future."

On Wednesday, Welsh Culture Minister Alun Pugh confirmed the assembly government would not stand as guarantors of the garden's debt.

It marked the end of a long battle for survival by the garden which opened three years ago with the help of more than 20m of lottery money from the Millennium Commission.

The Great Glass House
The Great Glass House at Middleton
After initial success following the opening of the garden in 2000, the attraction suffered from a decline in visitor numbers.

According to the chief executive of the Welsh Tourist Board, Jonathan Jones, the attraction at present is not strong enough to sustain public interest.

"Everyone goes there the first time but there is not enough strength there as an attraction to attract them back time after time," he said.

"It is now up to the trustees, but we are prepared to talk to them and anyone who would take the place over.

"We would be more than willing to help financially any member of the private sector that would want to develop the attraction as we do with other attractions in Wales."

Timeline: National Botanic Garden
10 Dec 03  |  South West Wales
Optimism over garden's future
10 Dec 03  |  South West Wales


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