Rent hike could derail popular Wakefield attraction

Ralph Wolstenholme

Ralph Wolstenholme

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FEARS have been raised for the future of a popular light railway at Pugneys country park after Wakefield Council chiefs imposed a 75 per cent rent hike.

Pugneys Light Railway owner Ralph Wolstenholme said his annual lease is to rise from from £2,000 to £3,500.

Mr Wolstenholme, 21, said 98 per cent of takings are ploughed back into running the railway, which was set up by his police officer grandfather Jim Pinder 17 years ago.

Mr Wolstenholme took over running it as a labour of love following Mr Pinder’s death aged 65 in 2013.

He said: “If I can’t make ends meet at all it will have to go. As much as I don’t want to do that it would have to go because I’m not running at a loss. I do it because I was extremely close to my grandad and it would be a shame for it to go. the railway gives a lot of enjoyment to people.”

Last November, Wakefield Council cut funding for Pugneys by £230,000 a year and the local authority is encouraging businesses to invest in the park

Mr Wolstenholme said: “The council is wanting to make money from Pugneys, yet here they are saying to the only existing long-term leaseholder pay a 75 per cent increase or leave.”

Karen Collins, of Wakefield Council, said: “We have had to increase the cost of the lease to bring it up to levels which are commercially comparable with other operators on site.

“Given the council’s current financial situation we cannot afford to keep the cost below the market rate. We want to continue to work with Mr Wolstenholme and would welcome talking to him to see if we can come to an agreement.”

Mr Wolstenholme is seeking to raise cash via crowdfunding at www.gofundme.com/pugneysrailway to refurbish a

Barry McGrath.

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