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Wakehurst visitor numbers halved

Car parking charges at Wakehurst. Pic Steve Robards SUS-141006-170657001

Car parking charges at Wakehurst. Pic Steve Robards SUS-141006-170657001

Wakehurst Place has suffered a 50 per cent drop in visitors since its controversial parking charges were introduced on April 17.

But the number of people buying season tickets to visit the gardens has increased nearly five fold with 3,250 purchased from April 1 this year compared to 685 for the same period last year.

The drop in visitors over the past two months is more than the 40 per cent that was predicted by the new buisness model adopted by Kew for its country estate at Ardingly following its huge losses.

Wakehurst director Andy Jackson said the higher figure of 50 per cent was likely to be caused by the immediate reaction to the parking charges policy and he hoped it would level out in the future.

And Mr Jackson appealed again to local people who loved Wakehurst Place to consider supporting it by buying an annual season ticket for as little as £25 direct debt (£30 cash or credit card). The bearer can claim free parking for the vehicle they are in as well as entry to the gardens.

He said: “What local people who really love Wakehurst and value it as we do are doing is they are buying an annual season ticket and that is what Wakehurst needs to enable it to survive.”

Mr Jackson said it was essential that the standards in the gardens at Wakehurst did not fall despite the reduction in visitor numbers.

He said: “I cannot afford for the gardens themselves to dip in quality and, in my view, the gardens are really spectacular now. The property at Wakehurst is spectacular and we at Kew are determined to make sure that continues into the future.”

Wakehurst embarked on a new car parking policy after revealing a £1.4m to £1.6m deficit in its running cost caused by 80 to 85 per cent of its 400,000 annual visitors being National Trust members who enter the 188 hectares of gardens free.

The National Trust, which owns Wakehurst but leases it to Kew and publicises it as among its most popular properties, pays nothing towards the running costs except an annual £80,000 payment from an endowment for its upkeep left by the previous owner in the 1960s.

Despite five years of negotiations, the only option left to Kew was to introduce parking charges of £2 for an hour, £5 for two and £10 after that.

 

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