BOSSES have vigourously denied accusations they have deliberately “run down” one of the area’s top tourist attractions to ease the way for new homes on the site.
The accusation towards directors of Long Sutton’s Butterfly and Wildlife Park was levelled during a recent meeting of residents opposed to a £12million development of 87 homes, 14 wind turbines and allotments.
The plans have been put forward following the announcement that the park will close its gates for the final time at the end of the 2012 season.
But park owner Peter Smeaton, who is one of those behind the plans, has been horrified by what was said. He claims he and other directors poured more than £300,000 of their own money into keeping the park open and improving it.
About £100,000 from the solar park development was also invested in 2011, with a further £85,000 expected to be ploughed in this season.
He said the investment resulted in the park being named Visitor Attraction of the Year.
He said: “The truth is, without the support and money we have pumped into the park, it would have closed four years ago.
“We have effectively propped it up, but it is no longer commercially viable.
“Fundamentally, the issue is straightforward. We are in a period of economic recession. As a result our visitor numbers have fallen from 50,000 five years ago to 25,000 and people have less money in their pocket to spend.
“The recession has killed us – that and the terrible weather.
“We have done our best to make it viable, but it just hasn’t been enough.”
Mr Smeaton now intends to submit an auditor’s report to South Holland District Council ahead of its consideration of the eco-homes plan, to show that the park has become unviable.