I read the extensive article that the Alnwick Garden plans to create ‘the biggest play structure in the world’ with a possible loan from Northumberland County Council (Northumberland Gazette, March 2).
Aside from the fact that the county council, despite pleas of poverty due to austerity measures and Government cuts, still manages to find £8.5million from some magic well – or should that be magic pothole? – to help fund the new venture, there are a few questions I would like to ask regarding the latest plans.
Before I do, I would like to remind people of the plans to build ‘one of the largest treehouses in the world’ some years back.
What was hinted at was a structure in the trees which would be a wonder to behold and play on. I do admit it is quite impressive, but I am sure I am not alone in thinking it did not do what it said on the tin and ended up being a few bridges for the children, young and old, to laugh and lark around on, plus a nice gourmet restaurant.
I see the new area will be approximately 1,000 square metres, but what percentage of this area is going to be covered by the 600-capacity guest hall, tavern and restaurant, which I imagine may be quite large?
Will it turn out to be a large bunch of eateries with a small play area attached or vice versa?
Will the restaurant, guest hall and tavern be subject to business rates or fall under the charitable status of the Garden, which means the council would be helping to fund non-ratepaying enterprises to the detriment of town-centre and local businesses of a similar nature, saddled with both rent and rates costs before they have to fund anything else?
The determination that 48 jobs will be created is to be applauded, but no mention of the nature of these is mentioned. Will they be full-time jobs, allowing people to at least have a try at a living wage, lots of part-time jobs on minimum wage, or these horrible zero-hours contracts that the Labour Party is forever going on about?
The new enterprise will bring trade and people to the town, no doubt, but I feel pretty sure that most visitors, especially those with children, will enter the Alnwick Garden gates and will not re-emerge until they go home again as they will have everything they need behind the walls.
Please also remember that the town needs the trade all year round, not just for Christmas.