NEXT year’s season will be the last for one of south Lincolnshire’s biggest tourist attractions.
A significant drop in visitor numbers along with rising costs mean the directors of Long Sutton Butterfly and Wildlife Park have been left with no alternative but to close.
Director Peter Smeaton said the decision was sad but did not come as a surprise to the ten full-time and 15 seasonal staff, who have been given 12 months’ notice.
He said: “It’s a combination of increased costs and red tape. One example is our zoo licence, where one of the conditions that they have imposed is that we have to put up a high security fence around the park at a cost of about £200,000.
“Our biggest cost is wages, where there have been increases in the minimum wage, the second is heat and the third is feed. Every single item that we buy has gone up.”
Mr Smeaton says the park, which has been running for 24 years, is currently losing about £100,000 a year.
“It cannot go on,” he explained. “We have tried everything we can in terms of promotion and advertising but with the economic climate it is just not going our way and we do not see any change in the next year at all.”
Another blow this season was the loss of £7,000 takings when a safe was stolen last month.
The wide variety of animals at the park, which includes insects, reptiles, birds of prey, llamas and water buffalo, will be rehomed.
Mr Smeaton said: “They will get dispersed to other parks around the country. Some have already found new homes because the moment we told the staff they were on the phone.”
The park was set up by Peter and Julie Worth in 1987, who remained at the helm until 2007. Mr Worth said there will be a “big hole in his heart” once the park closes.
“We had 20 years of great times and it’s very sad to come to this,” he said. “I am sorry for the community as a whole.
“Two generations of families have gone through it and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there.
“We met so many friends over the years through visitors and business contacts and that was the most exciting part of it.”
A closure date has not yet been set but Mr Smeaton believes it could be at the end of next August.
However, he hopes the Little London site will not be left redundant as he revealed new plans are in the pipeline.
It is hoped proposals will be ready to be submitted to South Holland District Council before Christmas.