Hall visit charges to decrease if council backs fees u-turn

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Council bosses in Leeds could backtrack over plans to introduce price hikes at Lotherton Hall and estate following a public outcry.

New charges that would force some families to pay more to visit the popular attraction had won the backing of senior councillors in July - but now following public talks council chiefs are recommending the prices are reduced.

Opponents had been calling for a rethink of improvement plans for Lotherton Hall and its surrounding estate – which was donated to the people of Leeds. While accepting visitors should pay for car parking and to visit the house they were annoyed that they would have to pay a blanket charge.

Coun Matthew Robinson (Cons, Harewood) welcomed the planned improvements but was among those who asked the council to re-consider the idea of a blanket charge giving access to everything in the estate.

Parking charges at the country estate are currently £3.70 and access to the bird garden and grounds are free. Entry to the hall is £3.30 for adults, £1.20 for children and a family ticket is £6.50.

Under the new arrangements, agreed in July and due to be introduced in October, adults were to pay £6, children £2.50 and a family ticket was to be £15. The charges cover parking and access to all of Lotherton’s facilities including entry into the hall. Season tickets and other reductions would also be available.

However, following a public consultation it is now proposed that the prices are again changed, with some prices falling and giving visitors some chance to just park up and enjoy the grounds without having to pay a blanket charge for all the attractions which they may not wish to visit.

A report to be considered by members of Leeds Council’s executive board on Wednesday says: “As a result of the comments received during consultation, changes have been proposed in relation to the prices for entry in to Lotherton Estate and Hall as detailed in this report.”

Lotherton, at Aberford, was owned by the Gascoigne family until Sir Alvary and Lady Gascoigne gave the hall and estate to the City of Leeds in 1968.

The report adds: “The Lotherton Hall and Estate was gifted to Leeds City Council by the Gascoigne family in 1968.

“The deed of gift does not require Lotherton Hall and Estate to be offered as a free facility. Lotherton Hall has been charging for approximately 15 to 20 years.”

Under the latest proposals, adults would be charged £5 to get into all the attractions, a concessionary ticket of £4 would be available and those who just wanted to visit the grounds would be able to do so at off-peak times and pay £3.70 for parking. All cyclists will be allowed free entrance and there will be a number of season tickets.

If agreed by councillors the revised charges would be introduced from the beginning of January next year.

Annually 40,000 cars currently pay to park but 150,000 vehicles were counted into the estate, representing lost income for the authority.

The report adds: “Overall the impression is of a municipal park which happens to contain a historic house and a bird garden, rather than our aim which is for Lotherton to be a coherent estate that is also a quality visitor attraction.”

It also states increased income will also help to support improvements that are currently required at Lotherton. Council chiefs have already outlined a new £160,000 improvement plan.

Improvements planned include road widening to relocate the exit route, a new information and pay point, safer parking, and extended winter opening hours.

There are also plans to restore the Edwardian and walled gardens and Japanese rockery, more picnic and play areas, a new events programme and doubling the proportion of the estate accessible to the public.