MP demands answers from Butterfly and Insect World owners over cash as efforts to save attraction hit a brick wall

MP Owen Thompson has demanded answers from the owners of Butterfly and Insect World amid fears that efforts to save the attraction have hit a brick wall.

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The Evening News revealed last week that owners of the popular attraction confirmed they had made the ‘difficult decision’ to shut its doors permanently after the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Mr Thompson, the SNP MP for Midlothian, said he was advised by owners Dobbies Garden Centres that the site would require ‘significant capital investment’ to save it.

A Chilean Rose Tarantula and a African Royal Python at Butterfly & Insect World PIC: Greg Macvean

Following a meeting with their CEO Graeme Jenkins, Dobbies have refused requests to provide a figure on the amount needed on grounds that it’s commercially sensitive information.

But Mr Thompson said clarity is needed over cash to help progress talks with potential investors or other community groups. He has urged Dobbies to halt dismantling of the site until all options are explored.

Despite its popularity Dobbies said the decision has been made not to relocate the Lothians institution, which opened in 1984, and there are no plans for the current site.

MP Owen Thompson has demanded answers over Butterfly and Insect World closure

They also confirmed today that the rehoming process for the the butterflies and other insects is complete but said they can’t specify where they are being moved to.

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Meanwhile, the company has grown sales by more than 50 per cent in its latest accounts and continued to show "resilience' during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Following the reopening of garden centres last August, the out-of-town attraction welcomed customers back temporarily for pre-booked visits, but it shut again in November and has remained closed since.

Mr Thompson said it appeared the decision had been made a while ago to close the doors without community consultation.

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He added: "Dobbies told me they are open to talks but so far they have remained very tight-lipped about the details we need to take things forward.

"This has been an important community resource for almost 40 years and we want to keep it that way. If Dobbies can't or won't keep it running, I urge them not to hinder efforts to progress a community-based solution. I am keen to explore all possible funding opportunities but without the facts we quickly hit a brick wall.

"I understand Dobbies have started rehousing the animals, and we need to know more about what has taken place so far. It seems they were quietly planning to close the doors and shut shop with not a word to anyone - but the community won't stand for that. I would ask them to call a halt to any further dismantling of the facilities at Butterfly and Insect World at least until we have time to explore the options.

"This month the Big Butterfly Count is encouraging us all to learn about the importance of butterflies to a healthy environment, so it's a backwards step for this important educational centre to be closing its doors for good.

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"Butterfly and Insect World teaches respect for creatures of all shapes and sizes. With proper marketing and support Butterfly and Insect World could be an even bigger resource bringing visitors to Midlothian.

"As the climate change summit heads to Glasgow, let's not let the Lothians down by losing our Butterfly and Insect World. I urge Dobbies to provide the facts about the finances. Let's keep this as a learning centre for the local communities and visitors from far and wide to enjoy."

A spokesperson for Dobbies said: “The decision to close has been a difficult one, particularly as we recognise the role the attraction has played in Midlothian.

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“The rehoming process is complete and we have worked with independent zoo and wildlife consultants to ensure that all the animals are going to licenced zoos and specialist collections with high welfare standards.”

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