Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the National Birds of Prey Centre

  The National Birds of Prey Centre is the most significant collection of Birds of Prey in the world. The Centre first opened to the public in 1967, and now houses approximately 300 Birds of Prey and Owls. Our average visitor numbers over the past five years have exceeded 35,000 per annum. In addition to the general public, the Centre is involved in education, research and breeding projects throughout the world, providing an extensive consultation base for numerous organisations, leading the world in captive breeding.

  We are continuously looking for additional income to provide funding for the Centre, we are not able to apply for grants or charitable funding, and zoos are not entitled to lottery funding. The income from Falconry Experience Days, training courses, external flying demonstrations, special events and film work provides funding for the Centre through the winter months, when visitor numbers are generally low.

  Since the FMD outbreak in February 2001, our visitor numbers have dropped considerably for this time of year. Income on 23 March 2001 from the Gate, Shop and Café is £10,925 down on the same period in 2000. To encourage visitors to come to the Centre, a press release was issued and very negative results were received from the media. School and Group visits have been cancelled up to and including July 2001. Ticket sales for our special events in April 2001 are 98 per cent down on last year (loss of income £1,920).

  Falconry Experience Days and courses (involving Hawking on local farmland) have been postponed. To date we have approximately 309 vouchers outstanding, which are valid for one year. This is an achieved income of £33,990 and has already been utilised. We do not have this money to refund to customers if this situation develops. A total of nine Falconry Experience Days were cancelled in February and March, total loss of income £5,940. The Falconry Course booked for 12-16 March 2001 was also cancelled, total loss of income £2,550. Courses planned for April and May will not go ahead.

  If the situation does not improve considerably over the next two months, we stand to loose approximately £64,800 in April and May. This figure is based on previous income over the past three years, and does not include potential income or new business.

  Crisis management plans were activated at the end of February 2001, and this brought into force short-term and long-term savings. All Shop stock (gifts and souvenir for the season) orders cancelled, heating and lighting reduced, no orders placed other than essential services and animal food. All advertising cancelled or postponed, contracts cancelled for waste disposal and visitor facilities. No seasonal staff recruited, part-time staff laid off and full-time permanent staff have taken a pay cut of 20 per cent.

  At a meeting with HSBC Bank Plc on 26 March 2001, our Bank Manager authorised a no commission agreement for six months. The only other assistance we are entitled to is Non-Domestic Rates Hardship Relief, and our application was sent to the Forest of Dean Council on 4 April 2001 (£1,311.95).

  What has to be borne in mind, is even with interest free loans or payments referred, without more positive financial assistance it will take many years for our business (like many other similar organisations) to recover. A substantial reduction in VAT for zoos, and a short-term cut in fuel costs will assist us to get through this crisis and encourage the general public to visit tourist attractions in the near future. The opportunity to earn revenue in the first quarter of our season has been prevented due to circumstances beyond our control, and this period of income is not recoverable.

  If you would like any more information, please do not hesitate to contact us.

April 2001

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