Parking-ban threat to Gardens of the Rose

PUBLISHED: 16:35 11 September 2008 | UPDATED: 13:34 06 May 2010

PARKING for visitors to one of St Albans major tourist attractions could be in jeopardy next year. The Gardens of the Rose in Chiswell Green is already facing financial difficulties because of a shortage of visitors this summer largely due to the poor w

PARKING for visitors to one of St Albans' major tourist attractions could be in jeopardy next year.

The Gardens of the Rose in Chiswell Green is already facing financial difficulties because of a shortage of visitors this summer largely due to the poor weather conditions.

The problems have been exacerbated by having to reduce the number of days the gardens can open because the Health and Safety Executive will not allow certain equipment to be used on the gardens when the public are visiting.

The gardens can now only open from Wednesday to Sunday because of the prohibitive cost of carrying out vital maintenance outside normal working hours.

New chief executive of the Royal National Rose Society (RNRS) Roz Hamilton is confident that revenue from the gardens can be greatly increased by making it more commercially orientated.

She envisages it being a popular location for weddings and business events but is unable to take any bookings until the problem with the car parking is resolved.

And that could mean fighting a costly public inquiry - which the RNRS does not think it can afford to do.

The situation arose because the RNRS sold part of its land to Butterfly World which is building a large new tourist attraction next door to the gardens.

The two parties were to share the Butterfly World car park but that scheme, which includes the building of a new road, has fallen behind its original schedule and the car park may not be ready until 2010.

As a result, visitors to the gardens are still using Chiswell Green Lane for access and have been parking on the overflow car park.

When the RNRS applied for a certificate of lawfulness to use the overflow car park, the council turned down the application. An appeal has now been lodged because the RNRS maintains it can provide evidence that the car park has been used for a continuous period of more than 10 years.

Roz said that the RNRS had been allowed to keep the overflow car park open until the season closes at the end of this month but as things stood at the moment, there might not be any car parking available next year.

However she remains optimistic about the future of the five-and-a-half-acre garden which has two major income streams - its membership and visitors.

Although June was a good month, visitor levels have been down for the rest of the summer because of the weather and the gardens can only open seasonally. She said that with only around 2,500 members paying £26 annual membership, the RNRS relied on donations, legacies and similar sources of funding.

Describing the gardens as "Herts best-kept secret", Roz said she believed the RNRS needed to be more commercially orientated to survive and would benefit hugely from the opening of Butterfly World.

St Albans planning portfolio holder, Cllr Chris Brazier, said planners were unhappy about the use of the overflow car park because it was at the top of a hill and visible from the road.

But he stressed that the council did not want to jeopardise an attraction which was good for tourism and economic regeneration.

He urged the RNRS to come back and talk to the council about temporary permission to continue using the car park until Butterfly World had built theirs. He added: "We are supportive of the Gardens of the Rose and we want them to continue.

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