National Trust members voice concerns at Wakehurst meeting

JPMT 250214 Wakehurst Place - introduction of parking charges. Photo by Derek Martin PPP-140225-221446003
JPMT 250214 Wakehurst Place - introduction of parking charges. Photo by Derek Martin PPP-140225-221446003

Wakehurst has hosted its first public meeting about the introduction of car parking charges at the Ardingly attraction.

More than 60 people attended with questions from the floor answered by Richard Deverell, director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Andy Jackson, director of Wakehurst Place, and Andy Semple, National Trust director for London and South East

Kew, which leases the property from the National Trust but receives no revenue from 80 to 85 per cent of its 400,000 a year visitors who are National Trust members, is running at a £1.4m loss and is introducing charges to park of £2 for the first hour, £5 for two hours and £10 for longer.

In a statement on Kew’s Wakehurst website, head of Wakehurst Andy Jackson said: “This morning we held the first of our five question and answer sessions to discuss the introduction of parking charges at Wakehurst Place. We want to thank those who came along to share their thoughts.

“It is incredibly reassuring to know just how much our visitors care about Wakehurst Place and safeguarding its future. We wanted to give them the opportunity to meet with the decision makers from Kew and the National Trust, and while we fully appreciate that not everyone agrees with the plans, we hope we have been able to offer further clarity as to why we have had to come to this decision.

“Over the past few weeks we have been heartened to find that, once our regular visitors hear the full story and understand the absolutely urgent need to raise income, many are opting to show their support by buying a Wakehurst Place season ticket.

“In the first two weeks since the announcement we have sold over five times the usual number of Season Tickets. These regular visitors, who share our passion for Wakehurst, are prepared to pay from 50p a week (the cost of a season ticket spread out over a year) to help us sustain the future of the garden.”

The charging for parking model allows Kew to link directly its income to the number of visitors. This, in turn, opens the door to investing in the landscape and visitor experience.

More on this story in this week’s Mid Sussex Times