Funding deal hands Welsh botanic garden final reprieve

Subsidies and money from Millennium Commission to save £42 million garden

The £42 million National Botanic Garden of Wales has been saved, after months of financial trauma. Subsidies of £1.2 million will be given to Middleton until 2009 to recreate an 18th-century garden to put the project back on its feet. The Millennium Commission will also supply £1.6 million capital funding. Although Welsh culture minister Alun Pugh claimed it was the Cardiff Assembly’s refusal to pay an open-ended subsidy “which had brought about the new deal” that rescued the project, senior sources point to the tough line taken by the Millennium Commission in forcing the assembly to re-think. Asked about continual subsidy, a Millennium Commission representative said: “It is hard to see it not needing one when you look at botanic gardens across the world with research and education roles. The business plan had fund-raising, or sponsorship as part of its task.” Middleton general manager Rhodri Griffiths said the original business plan envisaged 30 per cent of income being raised in this way. Griffiths described the deal as “a huge leap forward” but said “some big financial issues” had yet to be resolved with the banks. Pugh said the garden had to be “a fun place for people of all ages”, but the commission said it would not be allowed to alter its “firm base in research and education”. The Millennium Commission’s £1.6 million includes: £600,000 for slip gardens and the last two inner quadrants; £700,000 for other projects; and £300,000 to pay bank debts. The Welsh Assembly will give £900,000 to the cause and Carmarthenshire County Council will put in £300,000. Staff at the site will increase from 18 to 35/40 to add to the 170 existing volunteers.

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