GARDEN: Question the town benefits

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I read with interest the letter by Mark Brassell, director of the Alnwick Garden, (Northumberland Gazette, March 29).

I am sure it is in the interest of Mr Brassell and others to stress the benefits of the Alnwick Garden to the town’s business people and residents, but I’m afraid only part of the planned Lildorei Play Village is being trumpeted as beneficial.

The plan, as I understand it, includes the Play Village, which I am sure will be very well designed and built, and I am also sure that the local children will greatly enjoy the weekly use of the facilities as offered by the Garden.

However, the attached ‘extras’ that are included, namely a café, tavern, gift shops, wedding chapel and 600-seat reception venue, may not fill the hearts of existing business proprietors in Alnwick with deep joy.

I feel that any plans made are for the sole intention of keeping as many people in the Garden as possible, which is understandable from the Garden management point of view, but to proclaim that Alnwick itself will greatly benefit from the hordes of people attracted to the Garden is, in my view, misleading.

Undoubtedly, there will be inevitable benefit as not everyone will remain in the Garden all day, but quoting 378,000 visitors walking from the Garden to the town is a ridiculous use of a statistic.

There must be some verifiable means of arriving at this huge number, but to imply that over a third of a million people have, or will be, coming into Alnwick town centre yearly is questionable. Working in Alnwick, I am pretty sure that I would have noticed over 7,000 people a week wandering around (if a basic average is used, probably more in the summer season).

And I must point out the fact that there are no parking facilities within the Garden so visitors would need to walk from the Garden to get to their cars and/or coaches.

When this Play Village plan was originally submitted over a year ago, I did question whether this was going to be a vast play area with a few added facilities or merely a huge range of eateries/function venues with a small play area attached, conveniently labelled “the largest play structure in the world”.

The other question I asked was whether the new facilities would be subject to business rates, as are Alnwick town centre traders, or whether they would fall under the Garden’s charitable status, as I believe charities and non-profit organisations can have rate exemptions.

I await developments.

Clive Roper,

Alnwick