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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 November 2007, 20:15 GMT
Botanic garden asks for more cash
Glass house, National Botanic Garden
The National Botanic Garden cost £43m to develop, opening in 2000
One of Wales' most high profile tourist attractions wants another big injection of public money.

The National Botanic Garden of Wales is looking for a debt of £1.7 million to be cleared, BBC Wales understands.

It also wants an annual grant of £500,000 a year, and is in negotiations with the Welsh Assembly Government.

The garden has lost millions of pounds since 2003 and accounts in the new year are likely to show a further loss of more than £576,000.

Accounts for the 2005/2006 financial year show that the garden depends on its overdraft to pay for its day-to-day "capital requirements" and auditors KPMG had warned that uncertainties may cast doubt about the ability of the garden to continue as a going concern.

The garden at Llanarthne in Carmarthenshire was opened in July 2000 and was developed at a cost of £43m.

Glasshouse,  National Botanic Garden of Wales
With public spending under pressure from competing demands we cannot continue to bail out projects such as this every few years
Paul Davies AM, Conservative

Half of that was from the lottery-funded Millennium Commission, but the garden has suffered severe financial problems.

In 2002 and 2003 it received nearly £2m in aid from the assembly government and the lottery, but it warned in October 2003 it may have to call in the receivers.

A rescue package was announced by the assembly government, Carmarthenshire Council and the Millennium Commission and it saved the garden at the last minute. Each contributed £300,000.

The culture minister at the time, Alun Pugh, said there would be no further payments from the assembly government after 2009 to stabilise the garden.

Mr Pugh said then: "At that point, the garden should have achieved financial security and there will be no further stabilisation payments."

In 2004/5 102,000 visitors visited the garden. The projected visitor number for the current financial year is 125,000.

'Important asset'

Earlier this month it was announced that the assembly government would wipe out the £13.5m debt of the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay and treble its annual revenue funding from £1.2m to £3.7m.

It came after news emerged that auditors had warned the arts complex was in danger of insolvency.

The term of the recovery plan is now coming to an end and we are in discussions with the management about the future
Welsh Assembly Government spokesperson

Conservative AM Paul Davies said he was "extremely concerned" and found it "utterly incomprehensible" that the garden was "asking for another public handout just four years after taxpayers bailed it out for the first time".

"Ministers have set a precedent by writing off the Wales Millennium Centre's debt. If they are to remain consistent I cannot see how they can possibly reject this appeal from the botanic garden.

"The garden is an important cultural and scientific asset of which we are all rightly proud and must support.

"However, with public spending under pressure from competing demands we cannot continue to bail out projects such as this every few years."

The assembly government said it provided the garden with an "annual revenue grant of £150,000 in line with the terms and conditions that underpin the recovery plan agreed in 2004".

A spokesperson said: "The term of the recovery plan is now coming to an end and we are in discussions with the management about the future.

"Those discussion are ongoing and it would be inappropriate to comment any further at this stage."

More on Dragon's Eye on BBC 2W at 2100 GMT and on BBC 1 Wales at 2235 GMT on Thursday.

VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
The garden was developed at a cost of £43m.



SEE ALSO
Botanic garden tops lottery poll
17 Sep 07 |  South West Wales

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