Last chance for botanic Garden

Middleton told to restructure with last-chance aid package

Middleton, the National Botanic Garden of Wales, is being told to remodel itself after experiencing financial difficulties. The £47m project, near Carmarthen, has been warned by the Welsh Assembly that it must rethink what it is offering to reverse the decline in visitor numbers. A meeting of garden trustees agreed on Monday to accept a £353,000 aid package from the assembly, the local county council and the Millennium Commission to keep the attraction open for the next 10 weeks. However, the price of the rescue plan is that 55 of the 70 permanent staff will have to go, with the 30 part-timers likely to be replaced by volunteers. Alan Heyward, chairman of the trustees, said: “The trustees are doing this because they feel optimistic they will find a longer-term solution to the garden’s funding.” But the National Assembly made it clear that the garden’s reliance on botany and science to break even would probably have to go. Environment minister Carwyn Jones said: “It is important that Middleton recognises its weaknesses to build up for the future.” The assembly has spoken of a possible link with a commercial organisation able to plough in the investment still needed to develop the 231ha site, where large projects still await development. Jones said: “It is a scientific garden which does not have a lot of interest for the general public. “Middleton had been launched as a tourist project — and the assembly is not in the business of bailing out tourism schemes.”

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