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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 March, 2004, 14:58 GMT
Botanic garden saved from closure
The National Botanic Garden of Wales
Mr Pugh said visitor numbers must increase
A rescue package has been offered to the National Botanic Garden of Wales, which has been teetering on the brink of closure since last year.

The financial deal for the coming year comprises 300,000 each from Carmarthenshire County Council, the Millennium Commission and the Welsh Assembly Government.

The garden will also be able to access 1.3m already allocated from the Millennium Commission to improve the "tourist experience" and the Welsh Assembly Government will commit a maximum of 150,000 as a stabilisation payment for four years.

However, the garden's trustees have been warned that it needs to bring in more money from visitors and the assembly will not bail out the garden if the recovery plan fails.

Announcing the lifeline on Wednesday, Culture Minister Alun Pugh insisted the garden in Carmarthenshire will remain an independent organisation outside of government control.

But he said there will be no further stabilisation payments after four years and the attraction must increase its income.

If the garden is to take advantage of this fresh start it will need to improve its success as a visitor attraction
Alun Pugh

"There is a requirement to increase revenue from visitors and sponsors, furthermore an agreement with creditors will need to be forthcoming," said Mr Pugh.

"If the garden is to take advantage of this fresh start it will need to improve its success as a visitor attraction."

The package was welcomed by the opposition parties in the assembly.

Liberal Democrat, Jenny Randerson, said she wished the deal had not taken so long.

"Do you realise how much damage you have done to the image and reputation of Wales as the country that can't even run a garden," she said.

Conservative leader in the assembly Nick Bourne said the deal was what his party wanted all along.

"We welcome that belated intervention that we have heard of today it will - at the eleventh hour - save the garden."

The 43m flagship site, which is run by an independent board of trustees, has been facing closure since December when Mr Pugh rejected calls for a 3m assembly bail-out.

A threatened shutdown on St David's Day - 1 March - was avoided with just hours to go, with the promise of more talks.

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

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

If the garden had closed, the Millennium Commission has said it would have sought to reclaim a 21m grant it gave to get the gardens started.




SEE ALSO:
Timeline: National Botanic Garden
10 Dec 03  |  South West Wales
St David's D-day for garden
01 Mar 04  |  Wales
Vigil at doomed botanic garden
19 Dec 03  |  Wales


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