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Tatton Theme Park




Firstly I would like to say what a great place Tatton Park is. The house and formal gardens are beautiful and over 800,000 people a year enjoy visiting the park.


Tatton Park is run by Cheshire East Council and it makes a loss. That is something that the council are trying to change by promoting the farm and introducing more visitor attractions. Bewilderwood fits well into that framework as an attraction for young children and families.

Bewilderwood is a small theme park in Norfolk and the idea is to open a similar park in a corner of Tatton Park close to Knutsford.


Where the story goes off the rails is that in August 2011 (a month or two after Michael Jones took over as Cabinet Member for finance) a report was presented to the Cheshire East Council Cabinet on the Bewilderwood proposals. The report was withheld from the public and was not released until the Information Commissioner demanded its release under the Freedom of Information Act.

Even now Cheshire East Council has acted in a cack-handed way by releasing the report first to the press, then to councillors and finally to the member of the public who had requested it under the Freedom of Information Act. That is the wrong order and shows the priority of the Conservative Cabinet, first to try to protect themselves, then to other councillors and lastly to the public.


The report reveals that Cheshire East Council engaged high profile lawyers and accountants to provide advice on the project. The report is littered with references to risk.

Why is the council spending money on expensive legal advice to get round EU procurement rules? Why not simply advertise what the plans are and then wait 6 months to see if anybody else comes up with a better offer? As it is we have waited 18 months since this report was written with precious little action. The proposed opening date of March 2013 is way off target. More haste – less speed. This council seems to lurch from crisis to crisis rather than having a considered plan.


Finally speaking as an accountant I am always nervous when some one asks me to invest in a project but refuses to put any of their own money in. The report says that the Norfolk Bewilderwood makes a profit. Well if that’s true why can’t the Bewilderwood owners contribute to the £6.5m set up costs that Cheshire East Council are being asked to provide? If the Norfolk theme park doesn’t make a profit then that doesn’t bode well for a park in Tatton.


The full financial report by PricewaterhouseCoppers has not been released, but the numbers quoted in the report look odd to me. For example in the sensitivity analysis when the forecast sales are dropped by 39% the costs also drop by 39% so that the projections still show a profit. In the real world when sales falls many costs don’t fall as fast, for example maintenance costs would still have to be incurred even if visitor numbers fell.

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