MORE than £1 million is to spent on Swansea hothouse, Plantasia.
The Parc Tawe attraction will get rope bridges, trails, a tree hut and interactive waterfall, and will be run by an operator called Parkwood Leisure for the next 15 years.
The venue’s cafe is also set for an upgrade, and a covered play area outside could be considered.
Cabinet members voted in favour of the £1.1 million investment at a meeting, and other sources of funding will also be explored.
Councillor Jennifer Raynor asked if the council or Parkwood Leisure would take the lead in exploring additional funding.
“The obtaining of grant support is absolutely critical,” she said. “I want to know where the balance of responsibility is for that.”
Deputy council leader Clive Lloyd said he would get back to her with a response.
Cllr Lloyd said: “I think we are all agreed that Plantasia is in dire need of some upgrading.”
Plantasia opened in 1990 and contains arid and tropical zones. Two tarantulas, meerkats, parrots, caimans and a wide range of plants currently live there.
Proposals to close the attraction four years ago to save money were unpopular, and it remained open.
But running it has proved expensive for the council. Last financial year it spent £275,000 on the hothouse, £126,000 more than it had budgeted for. The previous year a £60,000 overspend was recorded.
But closing and taking it down would cost more than £500,000, and possibly up to £1 million.
Parkwood Leisure will receive a £103,000 annual management fee for running Plantasia on the council’s behalf which, when capital borrowing costs are added in, still results in a £90,000 saving for taxpayers.
The arrangement will also transfer a large proportion of future maintenance obligations from the council to the operator.
Council staff who work at Plantasia would become Parkwood Leisure employees on equivalent terms and conditions.
Upgrade work at Plantasia is expected to take three months, and the aim is to get everything up and running in time for the Easter holidays next year.
Speaking before the December 20 meeting, councillor Robert Francis-Davies, cabinet member for investment, regeneration and tourism, said: “This is an exciting time for Plantasia and for those who enjoy visiting the venue.
“We want to revitalise it, offering a must-see experience that is fun, high-quality, entertaining and educational.”