GARDEN: Look to the open market

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Last week, I listened to an item on the Radio4 Today programme in which the chief executive of a large insurance company pleaded with companies generally to increase investment at a time when the viability of money is at its highest and interest rates at their lowest.

This surely begs the question of why The Alnwick Garden is seeking a substantial loan of £8.5million from the county council as opposed to obtaining one on the open market as other companies do?

Has it tried to raise the money and failed, or does it consider the council to be a ‘softer touch’?

It has been repeatedly stated that this is purely a loan and will be repaid, but what guarantee is there that this will happen?

If the proposed development turns out to be a white elephant and the loan cannot be repaid, will the council taxpayer end up footing the bill?

The director of the Garden Mark Brassell tells us that 378,000 visitors triggered the people counter sensor he has installed at the Greenwell Lane entrance leading into the town centre.

This does not, of course, tell us how many were using this as a shortcut through to Denwick Lane or Greenwell Lane car park, or how many were employees or volunteers, nor does it tells us how many actually visited the town centre shops or how much they spent.

The Garden has consistently increased the extent of its retailing to include a large gift shop, garden products, restaurants and recently a fish and chip shop, and the latest proposals appear to extend this to include accommodation and a conference centre.

All of these, surely, take revenue out of the pockets of existing businesses in and around the town, who already provide these facilities.

If the proposed development is financially viable then The Garden should have no problem obtaining a loan on the open market and the county council should decline its application.

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