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GREAT NEWS FROM THE RNRS

EVERYTHING is coming up roses for a threatened St Albans tourist attraction which faced closure because it could not resolve parking difficulties. The Royal National Rose Society (RNRS), which has its internationally-known gardens in Chiswell Green, warned last August that not only the garden but also the society itself would have to close if it could not get permanent parking for visitors. But this week RNRS chief executive Roz Hamilton and John Breheny, chairman and chief executive of civil engineering company Breheny which now owns 95 per cent of the neighbouring Butterfly World, announced that agreement had been reached between the two parties not only about parking but also other collaborations including joint ticketing and discounted entry to both attractions. A delighted Roz said: “We need to build on the positiveness of both sides because we can complement each other so much. I think it is good for both organisations, not just locally but from a tourist perspective.” St Albans council leader, Julian Daly, who had brokered several meetings between the two parties, also welcomed the agreement. He said: “I think together they will be much more successful than individually. It has taken a long time but this is the next stage and a sensible step for everyone.” The agreement follows years of rancour between the two parties which left the Gardens of the Rose unable to open for more than a few weeks in the summer because it could not get planning permission for anything other than temporary parking for visitors. Negotiations about using car parking at Butterfly World, which was built on land sold by the RNRS to founder Clive Farrell, kept stalling and the impasse led to a decision by the RNRS that closure would be inevitable unless the situation could be resolved. RNRS president Bernard Williams said this week: “We could not survive with just a six-week opening period. We have to be open for the whole season.” When the Herts Advertiser revealed that the RNRS and its gardens might have to close, we launched our Keep the Roses Blooming campaign and support poured in both to this newspaper and the RNRS. Breheny’s purchase of the majority of Butterfly World resulted in round-the-table discussions and the two parties agreed that parking for garden visitors would be on the Butterfly World site and joint ticketing arrangements introduced. Although it is too late for the gardens to open for more than a limited period this summer, from next year it hopes to open all summer long as well as get a licence for wedding ceremonies to be performed there. Mr Breheny said on Monday that when his company became the majority shareholder, it had become aware that there were problems in the background between Butterfly World and RNRS and was keen to resolve them for the benefit of both parties. He confirmed that the butterfly biome, which was to have been the centrepiece of the project under Clive Farrell’s plans, would not be built in the current financial climate but it was hoped that Butterfly World would open as an all-year-round attraction in the near future. The limited opening period at the Gardens of the Rose in the past few years had hit the RNRS hard because even in those few weeks of opening, it raised more income from visitors than from membership. Eighty per cent of its visitors are from overseas as the gardens house one of only two rose trial grounds in the world. The gardens celebrate their 50th anniversary this July during the 2013 opening period from June 8 until July 29. Butterfly World will remain open until November 3 this year.

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