Minister warns against rescue bid

Bankruptcy fears for National Botanic Garden of Wales

Attempts to get the cash-rich Welsh National Assembly to play the lead role in rescuing the National Botanic Garden of Wales have run into legal difficulties. Assembly members in Cardiff are putting heavy pressure on culture minister Alun Pugh to pour in more money to the Millennium project near Carmarthen, where attendance figures have fallen badly, as well as to find a partner willing to pump in development funds that could amount to £8 million over four years. Talks continue with a possible partner. Pugh said the assembly had already given the Middleton garden £1.5 million in little over a year and he warned against Cardiff further increasing its involvement with running the operation. “We would be effectively acting as shadow directors and in such circumstances I would put the funds of the assembly at risk, and I am not prepared to do that,” he said, referring to fears that the garden could go bankrupt and the assembly could be landed with the debts. Mr Pugh repeated his refusal to agree to the assembly taking over the project, adding it to the eight sites around Wales run by the National Museums and Galleries. Pugh said: “I’m not going to pay out £20 million to nationalise the garden. It is not realistic.” Nevertheless, he added: “No-one wants to see the garden fail. It does valuable work with education and science, but the engine that drives it is visitor numbers.”

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