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Boost For Botanic Garden In Wales

WALES
15 November 2005
Wales BG

Lottery funding to the tune of £1.35 million for the National Botanic Garden of Wales will help to bring the public back, it is hoped. The money, which brings the total funding they've received from the lottery to £22.5 million, is to be used to create new attractions including a Tropical House designed by prominent New York architect John Belle.

Mr Belle, who has transformed many of New York's most famous sites, unveiled his design at the garden on Monday. Mike O'Connor, director of the Millennium Commission which donated the funds, said he was "proud" to be supporting the botanic garden. "In a time when our natural environment is under greater threat than any time in human history we should all be proud that we have created the UK's first new national botanic garden for two centuries," he added. The architect's Tropical House will be in a corner of the Double-Walled Garden at the tourist attraction in Llanarthne, Carmarthenshire.

Mr Belle, who was born in Pontcanna, Cardiff, in 1932 said the project provided him with an opportunity to contribute to his homeland and he was "extremely honoured" to be working with the National Botanic Garden of Wales.

"It's a wonderful way for me to reconnect with my roots. This is a world-class institution, which is renewing the landscape."

Mr Belle's architectural projects in New York have included the city's own botanical garden, as well as the Chrysler Building, Grand Central Terminal, and the Rockefeller Centre.

Three of his projects have won the Presidential Design Award, the US's highest award for public architecture and in 2003 he was made an honorary fellow of the Royal Society of Architects in Wales.

In 2003, the 500-acre Welsh botanic garden was on the brink of closure after the decline in visitor numbers and rising debts.The garden, which cost more than £40m to set up, was a project to mark the new millennium.

But visitor numbers slumped after it was opened in 2000, and last year the garden needed a £1.3m rescue package to remain in business. The rescue package helped to restore visitors but more are needed if the gardens are to stay open. Earlier this year the garden was looking into a property deal including the options of building a retirement village in the grounds.

It is hoped that the latest funding and John Belle's involvement will help to bring visitors back and ensure the long term future of the garden.

 

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