St Albans major tourist attraction to re-open

ONE of the city’s major tourist attractions is to re-open to the public – but not for long.

Despite an earlier decision to remain closed this year, the embattled Gardens of The Rose in Chiswell Green is now set to re-open on June 12 for a limited period of 28 days in line with the temporary planning permission the Royal National Rose Society (RNRS) has to use its overflow car park for visitors.

Chief executive of the RNRS Roz Hamilton said the earlier planned closure was due to a long-standing problem with car parking which arose because the RNRS sold part of its land to Butterfly World but failed to insert a clause in the contract stating that their visitors could share the new attraction’s car park.

The RNRS used its overflow car park when it reopened last year but residents have complained that they don’t like visitors parking there because it is at the top of a hill and visible from the road as well as in the Green Belt.

Cllr Chris Brazier, planning portfolio holder for St Albans District Council, has been involved in protracted discussions to resolve the problems between Butterfly World and the Rose Garden. He has now urged the society to apply for a longer term planning permission for the overflow car park.

He said: “It has royal patronage and people come from all over the world to visit this site. We do not want to jeopardise an attraction which is good for tourism and economic regeneration.”

After a recent meeting with St Stephen’s Parish Council to which residents were invited, Mrs Hamilton received a groundswell of support for the plans to re-open.

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She said: “We have been here since 1960 and I think everyone wants us to stay.

“We are a prestigious landmark in the city and bring tourists into the area but we are only ever open to the public during the summer months. But if we could not resolve the parking problem we would have to move. It was as simple as that and I don’t think anyone wants us to go.”

With the backing of residents and the parish council, the RNRS now has a planning application before St Albans District Council to use the temporary overflow car park on a permanent basis for around 10 years.

That would enable the Rose Garden to open to the public for around four months a year.

The five-and-a-half-acre rose garden has two major income streams – its membership and visitors.

The RNRS was hoping to increase its income by holding weddings and exhibitions on the site but the lack of parking has prevented that from happening.

Mrs Hamilton said they were hoping to remain open until around the end of July complete with a tea room offering light refreshments from 10am to 5pm. For more information contact the office on 0845 833 4344.