John Curtis, the preferred bidder to take over the Ventnor Botanic Garden and his wife, Mylene, presented their ideas for the Garden last night to a packed public meeting.
After explaining that the Garden has a shortfall each year of around £250,000, Mr Curtis, who described himself as someone who fixes companies, told the audience that they intend to charge an entry fee to the Garden.
No fencing would be placed around the Garden and it would not be policed, with 5-8% ‘revenue leakage’ (ie. people going in without paying) being expected each year.
No parking charge for those paying entrance
Rather than expect visitors to pay for entry and parking, car parking charges for those paying entry would be abolished.
John explained that from 25 Botanic Gardens he had looked at only two didn’t charge an entrance, with those being run by local councils and, he suggested, possibly on the brink of financial problems.
Covenant issues dismissed
There didn’t appear to be much reaction to the suggestion of an entry charge, with several people during question time showing support for it.
During previous public meetings, the issue of a covenant protecting the land from an entry charge had been raised.
Phil Le May, Chair of the Friends of the VBG explained that the council’s legal department had looked into this and denied there would be any legal problems with charging entry.
The lease is expected to be signed after Easter.
More to come later this morning including interviews with head gardener Chris Kidd and John Curtis.