Future of Chiswell Green rose gardens in doubt
PUBLISHED: 18:54 03 August 2012
THE future of the Gardens of the Rose and the society which runs it hinges on the success of a planning application for parking which is being submitted next month.
The rose gardens in Chiswell Green Lane have just closed after this summer’s temporary five-week opening period during which visitor numbers were down because of the poor weather.
Despite that shortfall, opening the gardens is the biggest money spinner for the Royal National Rose Society (RNRS) and raises more than income from membership.
But unless the RNRS succeeds in getting planning permission for 30 permanent parking spaces adjoining the gardens, both the society and the grounds will be forced to close.
The Gardens of the Rose have been a visitor attraction in St Albans for many years but the parking situation has been problematical since part of the RNRS land was sold for the creation of Butterfly World next door and the two were to have shared access and parking.
But the society and Butterfly World were unable to reach agreement and as a result, the RNRS has to apply for temporary parking for a short period in the summer – and unless it can reach a permanent resolution the board has already decided that closure is the only answer.
Chief executive Roz Hamilton confirmed this week: “We are putting in another planning application for 30 parking spaces just outside the gardens and if we don’t get that we can’t continue.”
The sticking point is that the site the RNRS wants to use is in the Green Belt and has already been turned down for planning permission before.
But it is throwing everything at one final attempt including a commissioned report about the number of accidents around the site – none of which have happened in the summer when the gardens are open – the site’s reclassification as a leisure facility and an offer to put in mature trees to screen the parking site from view.
The gardens were open from June 9 until July 29 this year and although visitors were down from between 8,000 and 9,000 to 6,500 because of the weather, the opening still accounts for more than 50 per cent of the RNRS income because of the success of the tea room and rose sales.
Ideally the gardens would open for four months a year so visitors could see the second flush of roses in the summer and it would have a licence to conduct weddings – which cannot happen until a permanent resolution of the parking situation is reached.
Roz said: “This planning application is critical because if it doesn’t succeed the society will fold and the garden will close.”
She added: “It is a long fight we have had here and we are eternal optimists but you have to take a realistic view of the financial situation and we can’t survive unless we take more money from our garden opening.”