Wakehurst car parking - your questions answered
Find out about the introduction of car parking charges for National Trust members and why the charges are vital for the future of the Wakehurst Place.
Please note that parking is free for all day paying visitors to Wakehurst, for Wakehurst Season Ticket holders and for Friends of Kew.
We very much appreciate the support shown by visitors and National Trust members who have continued to visit Wakehurst Place during this period of change.
We also acknowledge that for others the introduction of car parking charges has elicited a strong response. We understand that many feel a very personal connection to Wakehurst Place and we would ask that they consider channelling that passion into helping us ensure that Wakehurst thrives and survives.
The decision to introduce car parking charges was not taken lightly and The National Trust and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew worked together for five years to explore the options available to us so that Wakehurst could begin to benefit from direct income from all of its visitors.
Prior to the introduction of parking charges, the vast majority (80%) of Wakehurst Place’s visitors accessed the gardens for free with National Trust membership. However, it is not free to run Wakehurst Place, and we have a responsibility to operate it sustainably, in a manner that will ensure it continues to be a beautiful, educational, world-class garden and conservation site for future generations to enjoy.
Why we have introduced parking charges
Parking charges at Wakehurst were introduced in April 2014 in order to secure a sustainable future for the Gardens.
Wakehurst is owned by the National Trust and Kew has maintained the gardens and woodlands through a lease since 1965. An endowment left to the National Trust contributes £80,000 a year to Wakehurst but, despite income from commercial activities contributing £750,000, Kew is still left with an annual deficit of £1.4 million, which is not sustainable.
The new charging model allows Kew to directly link its income to the number of visitors. This, in turn, will enable us to invest in the long-term future of the landscape and visitor offer.
In March Richard Deverell (Director, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew), Andy Jackson (Director, Wakehurst) and Andy Semple (National Trust Director for London and South East) hosted a series of public meetings for visitors to Wakehurst who wanted to ask questions or find out more about the charges.
For details of the parking charges, please see our Wakehurst car parking charges page.
Q: Why do the parking signs not highlight the pricing structure?
A: Placement and content of signage was carefully considered and is now adequate, accurate and conforms to statutory guidelines. Each sign location has been carefully chosen to maximise the flow of traffic from the main highway and through the barriers at Wakehurst Place. We have ensured that visitors who decide they do not wish to pay for parking have enough time to leave the car park as the first 30 minutes are free.
Q: Why are there parking charges for blue badge holders?
A: Free parking for visitors with blue badges is not a legal requirement. However, Wakehurst Place makes adequate parking provision for our visitors with disabilities by providing parking adjacent to the nearest entry point, and we provide more spaces than required by statute.
Q: What has been the decline in visitor numbers since the introduction of charges and what are sales of the Wakehurst season ticket?
A: We have seen an initial 50% decline in visitor numbers since 1 April, however we are hopeful that visitor numbers will recover. We will continue to invest in the gardens to ensure that the high quality horticulture our visitors have come to expect at Wakehurst Place continues and that our programme of events and festivals gives people even more reason to visit.
Regular local visitors who love and value Wakehurst Place, and wish to see it survive and thrive, have been showing their support by buying an annual season ticket (£25 by direct debit, £30 cash or credit card) which raises direct income for Wakehurst. Benefits to the season ticket holder include: entry to the gardens, free parking, 10% off in the shop*, one free entry for the card holder to Kew Gardens in London and two free special events for Friends of Kew and season ticket holders. We have been incredibly heartened by the numbers of people who have chosen to support Wakehurst in this way, and have seen a fivefold increase in the sale of season tickets since 1 April.
There are currently over 6,500 season ticket holders at Wakehurst. They have also told us that at just 50p per week (the cost of a season ticket spread out over a year) the season ticket is very good value for year round visits to such a beautiful garden and international centre for plant conservation. We’d like to thank them for their support.
(*some restrictions apply)
Q: How many Wakehurst season tickets do you hope to sell this year?
Our 3 to 5 year medium term target is 30,000. If 30,000 people sign up for the season ticket over this period we will steadily grow our way to halving the deficit through the direct revenue season ticket sales bring to Wakehurst. The current forecast for Wakehurst Season Ticket sales for this FY is 8,000 – a four-fold increase on last year. We want to thank everyone who has shown their support for Wakehurst by purchasing a season ticket.
Q: Why are you charging £10 for parking?
A: Our regular local visitors can avoid parking charges by purchasing a Wakehurst season ticket for as little as £25 by direct debit (£30 cash or credit card). This includes free parking, as well entry to the gardens and directly sustains Wakehurst Place.
For those regular local visitors who hold National Trust membership and do not wish to purchase a Wakehurst season ticket, the parking charges are on a sliding scale:
• £2 for the first hour
• £5 for two hours
• £10 per day
These price points were set as a result of consultation with a representative sample of National Trust Wakehurst visitors. 40,000 email surveys were sent out to National Trust members who live within one hour’s drive of Wakehurst Place.
Entry price of £2 is for those who simply wish to use the visitor centre for retail or catering. As 53% of our visitors stay for two hours or less the £5 charge is to enable a reasonable level of income from the largest percentage of visitors to the gardens.
Q: Have you seen a decline in people spending money in the shop and cafes?
A: Retail at Wakehurst Place is outperforming the drop in visitor numbers by 10% and catering by 20%. Visitors to Wakehurst are visiting the restaurant and cafe more frequently as a proportion of our total visitors and are spending more on our food and beverages provided by award winning Ampersand Catering. Wakehurst staff continue to provide the highest level of customer service and this is one of the main reasons why our customers enjoy using our retail and catering facilities.
Q: Is there a family season ticket?
A: Children under 17 years of age accompanying an adult are admitted free to Wakehurst Place. Please see here for more about the Wakehurst season ticket.
Q: Why should National Trust members who already pay for National Trust membership be expected to pay for an additional season ticket for a National Trust site?
A: Unfortunately Wakehurst Place does not receive any direct income from our visitors who hold National Trust membership. Kew could no longer continue to absorb the costs of running Wakehurst Place when most of our regular visitors (80%) accessed the garden free with their National Trust membership.
Wakehurst Place does, however, benefit directly from Wakehurst season ticket holders. We have found that once our regular, local visitors understand the urgent need to raise income for Wakehurst. Many of them are buying season tickets and supporting Wakehurst.
Q: As Wakehurst Place is leased to Kew Gardens, is there any benefit to being a National Trust member if I visit?
National Trust members do not have to pay the standard entry ticket cost of £12.50, but National Trust members do have to pay to park. This free entry for members is even more beneficial when National Trust members are car sharing, to illustrate how this works:
• If one National Trust member arrives in one car, the National Trust member doesn’t have to pay the £12.50 entry, but will need to pay £2 for the first hour, £5 for two hours or £10 if they would like to park for the day.
• If two National Trust members visit in one car, they do not have to pay the £25 standard entry fee for two people, but will have to pay £10 if they want to park for the whole day. This represents a saving of £15 collectively
• If four National Trust members visit in one car, they do not have to pay the 50 combined entry fee for four people, but will have to pay £10 if they would like to park for the whole day. This represents a saving of £40 collectively
National Trust members can avoid car parking charges by purchasing a Wakehurst season ticket for as little as £25 by direct debit (£30 cash or credit card). This includes free parking, as well as entry to the gardens and directly sustains Wakehurst Place. This equates to 50p a week and is very cost effective for frequent visitors.
Q: Doesn't The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew care about its National Trust members?
A: The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew cares about all of the visitors to Wakehurst Place. Many National Trust members have expressed a very personal connection to Wakehurst Place, which we value, and we are asking these members to continue visiting Wakehurst and to help us generate the income that Wakehurst Place needs to survive.
We recognise that the introduction of parking charges at Wakehurst Place has elicited a strong response from some visitors. The decision to introduce car parking charges was not taken lightly and The National Trust and Kew worked together for five years to explore the options available to Kew so that Wakehurst Place could begin to benefit from direct income from all of its visitors. Prior to the introduction of parking charges, the vast majority (80%) of Wakehurst Place’s visitors accessed the gardens for free with National Trust membership. This situation was not sustainable for Wakehurst’s future.
Q: What will be outcome of continued reduced visitor figures. Will Wakehurst Place close?
A: Kew is committed to Wakehurst Place and we are hopeful that visitor numbers will recover. As such, we plan to continue to invest in the gardens to ensure that the high quality horticulture our visitors have come to expect continues, with our programme of events and festivals giving people even more reason to visit.
Kew is committed to the future of Wakehurst Place.
Q: Will you consider dropping parking charges?
A: We do not plan to reverse the introduction of parking charges.
Q: Does the deficit mean that Wakehurst Place has been badly managed?
A: Wakehurst Place is run efficiently and effectively. Over the years Kew has grown Wakehurst Place into one of the National Trust’s most popular and visited properties.
The situation we find ourselves in is as a result of the vast majority of visitors (80%) to Wakehurst Place entering the gardens for free with National Trust membership. This business model was not sustainable and therefore to secure Wakehurst Place’s future, direct revenue needed to be generated from all of our visitors.
It is not accurate to attribute the situation we find ourselves in at Wakehurst Place with Kew’s institutional deficit. The institutional deficit may have focused minds on the need to agree an income stream for Wakehurst Place with the National Trust but it's not the reason for the introduction of the parking charges.
Q: What is Kew's response to the change.org petition about Wakehurst Place?
A: We are aware of the change.org petition. While we respect people’s right to sign the petition and express their views on the introduction of the parking charges, it is not appropriate for the petition to solely target individuals connected to Wakehurst Place and Kew. The decision to introduce parking charges was taken at the highest levels at both the National Trust and Kew and was agreed by both organisations’ boards of trustees.
Q: Why has free 30 minutes parking been introduced?
A: The 30 minutes free parking allows those who do not wish to pay for parking ample time to leave the car park site safely.
Q: Why was a barrier system chosen rather than pay and display?
A: We evaluated the options available to us and came to the conclusion that the barrier system was the most cost effective way of us investing in the infrastructure needed to make parking charges.
A barrier system also has the benefit of ensuring it is very clear to visitors that car parking charges apply.
Q: Why can we not comment on this post?
A: The facility to comment was a temporary addition during the introductory phase of the parking charges. In addition, uploading comments to the Kew website is a resource-heavy manual process and we are in the process of streamlining our website and phasing out commenting across the main website.
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