Last-minute funding source could rescue Welsh garden

Expected closure is deferred, and planned Christmas festivities are continuing until 21 December following the appearance of a “new funding source”.

A possible last-ditch effort was underway this week to save Middleton, the £43 million National Botanic Garden of Wales, near Carmarthen, after the National Assembly in Cardiff refused to launch a £3 million rescue bid. Expected closure last Sunday was deferred, and planned Christmas festivities are continuing until 21 December following the appearance of a “new funding source”. The garden’s trustees were waiting to decide whether to liquidate the project, which would be likely to kill all hopes of revival, or place it in administration, which involves seeking revival of the business. General manager Rhodri Griffiths then announced that a new funding source was being proposed. Middleton representative Trevor Roach said: “All he would add was ‘It is not the assembly’.” Talks with the new source were opening at the Cardiff office of PricewaterhouseCoopers as HW went to press. Oakwood theme park in Pembrokeshire, which had been involved in earlier talks, has denied involvement. The assembly pulled out of a rescue bid as civil service accountants believed Middleton’s proposed rescue figures did not add up. Culture minister Alun Pugh told the final assembly plenary session before Christmas that the rescue plan was based on investment of £3 million to boost attendances from 120,000 to 233,000 by 2009. He said: “However, this is at odds with the previous business plan, which argued a capital investment of £8 million would be needed to generate these numbers.” Pugh faced opposition from Conservative leader Nick Bourne.

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