Wakehurst car parking - your questions answered
Read the statement from the Director of Wakehurst Place, Andy Jackson, about the introduction of car parking charges, and Kew's responses to questions about why the charges are vital to the future of the Gardens.
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.
Statement from Head of Wakehurst, Andy Jackson
Andy Jackson, Head of Wakehurst, 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 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.'
Q: What is Wakehurst's current annual visitation?
A: On average 400,000 visitors a year. 80% of visitors to Wakehurst Place are National Trust members, who access the gardens without payment to Kew.
Q: Is Kew losing money at Wakehurst and, if so, how much per year? And what is your annual income from the premises?
A: Yes. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew absorbs the majority of the running costs of Wakehurst Place. The cost to Kew of running Wakehurst Place is £1.4 million* a year. Kew receives approximately £80,000 per annum towards these costs from the National Trust. The source of this income is an endowment provided to the National Trust by Wakehurst’s last private owner (Sir Henry Price) to contribute to the management of the house and gardens. Despite income from commercial activities contributing £750,000, Kew is still left with an annual deficit of £1.4 million, which is just not sustainable.
Q: What is the 'net cost' to Kew of running Wakehurst, as referred to in the literature to visitors (the Wakehurst newsletter)?
A: £1.4 million a year
Q: How much is the proposed charge for parking at Wakehurst?
A: Cars will be: £2 for the first hour, £5 for two hours, £10 per day.
Wakehurst Place Season Ticket holders, Friends of Kew and those who purchase a day ticket to enter Wakehurst Place will not need to pay an additional fee for car parking.
The Wakehurst Place Season Ticket – at a cost of just 50p week - is excellent value for money for local, regular visitors.
The Wakehurst Place Season ticket, available from 1st April 2014, from just £25 offers you:
- free entry to the gardens and Millennium Seed Bank all year round
- free car parking
- one free ticket to Kew Gardens (worth £14.50)
- two free, exclusive open evenings
- 10% off purchases in the Visitor Centre Shop and Plant centre (some exclusions apply)
Q: How much do you hope to raise?
A: We need to raise as much as we can of the £1.4 million deficit. We anticipate in the first year raising half a million pounds from car parking charges. In addition, if the estimated 70,000 local regular visitors to Wakehurst were to purchase a season ticket, we estimate this would help raise £1 million of new income.
Q: How many complaints have you received so far?
A: We (Wakehurst Place) have been in touch with around 300 visitors on the topic of parking charges.
2. Income raising options
Q: Why don’t you just charge National Trust members for entry (because this would have been the most obvious option)?
A: For the past five years Kew and the National Trust have been working together to identify and evaluate different options to ensure a sustainable future for Wakehurst Place.
A number of income generation options were explored with the National Trust and a representative group of National Trust Wakehurst visitors, and the preferred option was the introduction of parking charges. This will allow Kew to link income directly to visitor numbers for the first time, contributing £500,000 a year to the deficit, which will be vital for the future of Wakehurst.
Under current lease arrangements, National Trust members enter Wakehurst Place free of charge.
3. The lease
Q: How long is there to run on the National Trust lease?
A: The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew currently maintains the gardens, woodlands and the mansion at Wakehurst Place, in accordance with a lease from the National Trust. The lease runs until 2063.
Q: I am led to understand that when the 100-year lease was agreed with Defra (MAFF in 1965) the condition for the peppercorn rent was free entry to National Trust members. If Defra are unable to fulfil this condition then they should default on the lease and hand the gardens and house back to the National Trust.
Q. Is there a clause in the lease that allows National Trust members into the grounds for free? If this is the case, then in my view, free means free, including arriving by vehicle into the grounds.
A: Free admission to the gardens for National Trust members from England, Wales and Scotland is when the garden is open to the public and for a minimum of three days a week. Car Parking charges are not precluded in the lease and indeed Kew charged all visitors to park their cars in the early 1970s.
4. Who pays and who doesn’t
Q: Why do Friends of Kew go free?
A: Friends of Kew and Wakehurst Season Ticket holders provide much-needed, direct revenue to Kew via their memberships. A Wakehurst Season Ticket (from £25) gets you free entry and free parking at Wakehurst.
Q: Will garden membership organisations with reciprocal agreements with Kew such as Friends of Heligan, Harold Hillier Gardens and so on, have to pay for parking?
A: Yes. Everyone apart from day ticket buyers, Wakehurst Season Ticket holders and Friends of Kew will pay for parking.
Q: My relative's ashes are scattered in Wakehurst - will I have to pay to park?
A: Yes. The scattering of ashes does not come with free entry to the gardens. The same applies to those who sponsor a bench or tree or any other donation.
Q: Do Blue Badge holders pay?
A: Charges will apply to Blue Badge (disabled) parking at Wakehurst.
Q: Will school groups pay to park?
A: Minibuses and coaches bringing school children on formal education visits will continue to be free.
Q: What about group/coach tours?
A: Group visits in minibuses and coaches will either pay the current discounted group entry rate for each passenger or an agreed fee based on the number of paying visitors in the coach.
5. Contribution of National Trust members
Q: National Trust members already make a valuable contribution to Wakehurst in the shop and restaurant why are we being charged for parking?
A: Despite income from commercial activities, including the shop and restaurant, contributing £750,000, Kew is still left with an annual deficit of £1.4 million, which is just not sustainable. We cannot just grow our way out of this deficit and need to address its root cause – 80% of our visitors visit Wakehurst Place for free. Parking charges will allow us to link income directly to visitor numbers for the first time.
We hope that our local, regular visitors will show their support for Wakehurst by purchasing a Wakehurst Season ticket – just 50p a week for the year.
Q: Why should I buy a Wakehurst Season ticket on top of my National Trust membership? I already make a contribution as a National Trust member via my membership.
A: National Trust members enter Wakehurst Place for free and do not make a direct contribution to Wakehurst via their membership.
However, Wakehurst benefits directly from Wakehurst Season Ticket holders.
We have found that once visitors understand the urgent need to raise income many of them are now buying season tickets. In the first two weeks since the announcement we have sold over five times the usual number of season tickets.
Andy Jackson, Head of Wakehurst Place says, 'Once our visitors hear the full story then the majority are buying season tickets as they want to support Wakehurst Place. Our visitors are loyal and passionate and are telling us that at 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.'
6. The Millennium Seed Bank
The costs of the Millennium Seed Bank are completely separate from those of the Wakehurst gardens and woodlands.
Q: Is there any possibility that Kew may close its operations at Wakehurst including the Millennium Seed Bank or any part of its operations?
A: Closing the operations at Wakehurst Place is not an option being considered. Both the National Trust and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew are absolutely committed to ensuring a strong future for Wakehurst Place. Income generated from the introduction of car parking charges is one of the ways in which we can raise much needed funds to put Wakehurst Place on a sustainable footing.
The work of Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank is funded separately.
Q: Who owns the land the Millennium Seed Bank is built on? Does Kew pay rent for this?
A: Kew owns the land that the Millennium Seed Bank is built on
Q: Are Kew trying to offset the cost of the seed bank project by charging National Trust members for parking?
A: Absolutely not. The work of Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank is funded separately.
7. Pricing points
Q: How did you set the pricing points?
A: 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 visitor 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.
8. These charges are counter-productive
- The amount visitors will have to spend in the car park to increase your revenue will be lost in the shops and cafes.
- Losing 40% of visitors will mean that not enough revenue will be generated to make up the deficit anyway.
- As for being in profit, how many visitors does it take to make up a £1.4 million, especially with an estimated 40% drop in visitors?
A: It is vital that we find additional income streams for Wakehurst if we are to ensure its future. The current model, whereby 80% of visitors access the gardens with no direct income to Kew, is not sustainable.
9. Parking Congestion outside Wakehurst
Q: What about potential/ likely parking problems in the vicinity of Wakehurst due to the charges?
Q: Won’t there be an environmental cost to the area as visitors with cars will start parking along the roadside and grass verges?
A: We have met with the parish council on the issue of parking outside of Wakehurst Place. We have agreed to closely monitor the situation and take appropriate action should any problems become apparent.
10. Why should we be penalised for Kew’s inability to run their business properly?
A: Wakehurst Place is run efficiently and effectively. Over the years Kew has grown it into one of the National Trust’s most popular and visited properties.
The situation we find ourselves in is a result of the vast majority of visitors to Wakehurst Place entering the gardens for free. This situation is not sustainable and if we are to secure Wakehurst’s future, direct revenue needs to be generated from all of our visitors. The introduction of car parking charges will allow Kew to link income directly to visitor numbers for the first time.About KewIn the Gardens