Council in £1.5m bailout for visitor attraction

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Despite recording a boost in visitor numbers South Yorkshire’s Wentworth Castle is to receive bailouts of up to £1.5m from the local council to prop up its finances.

Bosses at Barnsley Council admitted the attraction, which runs at a loss, could not be allowed to fail.

If the Wentworth Castle and Stainborough Park Heritage Trust were to fail, the council would be immediately hit with a £600,000 bill as pension guarantor.

However the leader of the council, Steve Houghton, said that the finances were not the only issue and that the council would continue to support the castle owing to the important contribution it made to the area’s heritage.

The trust is now understood to be taking a loan of £400,000.

However an additional payment of as much as £400,000 in temporary cash advances is to be repaid by 2014 to cover any gaps if works have to be paid for before grant money is released.

The trust recently launched a huge restoration of the historic Victorian conservatory and potting shed in the castle gardens as part of a £6.7m project part funded with £2.5m from the European Union.

Claire Herring, director of the trust, has gone on record as saying she was keen to see the trust achieve financial independence within five years.

She said the support of the council was “absolutely vital” and that it was providing technical advice and support as well as money.

Earlier this year staff were awarded the Historical House Yorkshire 2012 award by a national publication, Going Places magazine.

Seen as a leading voice for pinpointing the nation’s major tourist attractions, particularly for group tour operators, nominations for its awards are given by members of the public for the quality of an attraction based on service, politeness of staff, cleanliness and overall experience.

Wentworth Castle Gardens and Stainborough Park extends to over 500 acres .

It includes historic gardens, a children’s adventure playground and a fascinating array of 26 listed buildings and monuments.

The former seat of the Earls of Strafford, it has of late seen its rare formal gardens rediscovered, including a national collections of rhododendrons, camellias and magnolias.