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Last Updated: Monday, 1 March, 2004, 08:18 GMT
St David's D-day for garden
Botanic garden
The number of visitors to the garden has fallen
The National Botanic Garden of Wales is facing closure unless last-minute talks find a solution to its financial problems.

But a trustee of the garden, at Llanarthne in Carmarthenshire, says the garden has been given a reprieve for a few days.

It has been facing closure since December, when the Welsh Assembly Government rejected a plea for 3m to keep the attraction open.

The garden's general manager, Rhodri Griffiths, has confirmed that he was called to a meeting with Welsh Assembly Government officials last Friday, but said early on Monday that the situation remained "very confusing".

He made a last-ditch appeal to Culture Minister Alun Pugh for more public money to keep it open.

The 43m garden has experienced a slump in visitor numbers and has run up about 3m in debts since it opened in 2000.

A meeting of the stakeholders in the Middleton project is due to be held on Monday morning, followed by a meeting of the board of trustees.

Some people have worked with us for six or seven years, building the garden up to opening and sharing it with visitors
Curator Wolfgang Bopp

An announcement on the outcome of the talks is expected in the afternoon, but unless a solution to the financial problems is found, the garden could close its doors.

Dr Griffiths told BBC Wales: "It's a very important day for the gardens. As we've maintained always at the end of each month the bank has to assess if the garden should go forward.

"So we are at a position today that the overdraft facility with the bank is at an end and (we) very much have to hope that the bank will extend that for discussions to continue."

He said the meeting with assembly government officials on Friday had gone through latest recovery plans, and had been "very constructive".

Dr Griffiths told Good Morning Wales: "We are not sure at the moment, but we think we understand that the Welsh Assembly Government has requested a few additional days to review those plans to make their final decision."

"Mr Pugh has made his views very clear. Obviously, we think that many of his views are inaccurate and... as staff we are fairly angry with some of the comments he has made, which seem to show a disregard for the huge effort which has been made here.

"I think very surprised and disappointed is very fair to summarise our thoughts."

He said it would be "very nice, value for money and worthwhile" if Mr Pugh came up with more cash.

"We are hopeful that, as governments worldwide, that the Welsh Assembly Government will recognise the importance of its own botanic gardens for the people of Wales and beyond."

Garden curator Wolfgang Bopp told BBC Wales: "Some people have worked with us for six or seven years, building the garden up to opening and sharing it with visitors.

"There are hundreds of thousands of people who have enjoyed it and it (closure) would be a great tragedy for everybody involved - the staff, the volunteers and the supporters who have been fantastic, especially in the last five months."

The project had already been given a stay of execution while talks were held with a mystery backer.

If the garden closes, the Millennium Commission has said it would seek to reclaim a 21m grant it gave to get the gardens started.




SEE ALSO:
Crunch time for botanic site
04 Jan 04  |  Wales
Vigil at doomed botanic garden
19 Dec 03  |  Wales
Botanic Garden Community of the World
19 Dec 03  |  Photo Gallery


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