No chance of reprieve for St Albans’ Butterfly World as owners refuse to re-open

PUBLISHED: 12:00 28 November 2016

The former Butterfly World ticket offices.

The former Butterfly World ticket offices.

Danny Loo Photography 2016

The owners of Butterfly World in St Albans have again confirmed they will definitely not resurrect the closed sanctuary.

The footpath entrance to Butterfly World.The footpath entrance to Butterfly World.

In response to a series of articles in the Herts Advertiser about the attempts of a local campaign group, Save Butterfly World, to have the tourist attraction re-opened, Breheny Civil Engineering has issued a statement effectively extinguishing any such hopes.

It says: “Following recent comment in [the] press regarding Butterfly World, we feel compelled to make the following statement.

“Butterfly World will not re-open under any circumstances at any point in the future. Over the last few months, due to planning issues and for various reasons of site safety, we have been required to dismantle and remove many of the buildings, such that little now remains of the infrastructure necessary to operate the site.”

The firm continued: “Donated items have been returned to their rightful owners and a good many local causes, both individuals and schools, have benefitted from receiving familiar items from the site and the gardens, which has at least been some positive news.

“It was a great project that brought joy to many people, but despite a talented and dedicated management team and several million pounds of investment over six years, it could not be run such that it could generate anywhere near enough revenue to cover its basic operating costs.

“We have therefore found out to our considerable cost, that the project is not viable or sustainable on any level. We kept the project going for as long as we were able.”

A spokesman for the firm further told this paper that the proposed re-opening “is not going to happen”.

Much of the infrastructure has been removed, apart from the boarded-up ticket office, which has water leaking into it, along with the toilets, which form part of the site’s boundary.

The spokesman said that the insect study centre where visitors, including schoolchildren, learned about the life cycle of butterflies, is currently being packed up in Chiswell Green.

All the butterflies and other insects have been relocated to Stratford-upon-Avon’s Butterfly Farm, owned by Clive Farrell, the former owner of the St Albans sanctuary which - he has said previously - nearly bankrupted him.

Breheny’s spokesman said that while Save Butterfly World was aiming to have the long-promised biome built at the closed attraction, “we weren’t able to do that after trying for six years – it’s a non-starter”.

The conservation attraction shut its doors suddenly in December last year, six years after it opened, resulting in the redundancy of seven permanent staff.

Since its closure, the spokesman said, “People haven’t been knocking at the door, offering money for the site. What happens from here? There are no grand plans”.

He said that the meadows at the 27-acre Green Belt site were undergoing “a minimal amount of maintenance in consultation with [charity] Butterfly Conservation, which is keeping a record of the butterflies there”.

John Horsfield, chairman of Save Butterfly World, said he was ‘sad but not surprised’ to hear that Breheny had yet again ruled out re-opening the sanctuary.

However, a stubborn John added: “We would still like to talk to them. If the door is firmly shut, there may be other options – we have to keep an open mind.”

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