Plans to revamp Temple Newsam farm – but entry fees also set to increase

Plans to create a new £3.5m “play barn at Temple Newsam Farm are set to be considered by Leeds City Council decision-makers.

By Richard Beecham
Saturday, 19th September 2020, 6:00 am

The proposals would mean completely redeveloping the entrance to one of Leeds’ best-known family attractions, which still receives around two million visitors a year.

Council chiefs claim visitor numbers were shrinking even before the Covid-19 pandemic, and that Home Farm needed to find better ways of generating cash.

The plans, which are set to go before Leeds City Council’s executive board next week, include “reinvigorating” some of the site’s listed buildings, and creating an indoor play barn, new cafe and “retail space”, to improve the experience for families and put the attraction on a more even financial footing.

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Temple Newsam Farm.

However, officers added entry fees for the farm would increase significantly.

The document, which was written by Leeds City Council officers, stated: “The proposal would involve transforming the entrance to the farm incorporating a retail area as part of the ticket access arrangements.

“The surrounding area before accessing the paid attraction would seek to invite people to access the attraction by including some chickens and other suitable animals on display. The current buildings form a ‘U’ shape which would be filled with an extension to extend play opportunities as well as incorporate a café.”

It claimed the usual drop-off in numbers seen by the farm during winter could be offset by creating an indoor play space for children, adding: “The significant seasonal variation of an outdoor attraction identified above would be overcome by providing indoor space for children along with allowing accompanying adults to socialise.

“It is reasonable to assume that visits will increase as has been the experience at Tropical World and Lotherton Wildlife World when investment has been made. A specialist play provider will be commissioned to design and build the internal play equipment.”

Current admission prices stand at £4.10 for adults, £2.80 for children aged 5-16, while those under five go free. The report suggests increasing the prices to £6.50 for both children over three and adults.

This would mean a family of two adults and two children could find themselves paying as much as £26 to enter the farm, as opposed to the current price of £13.80.

Explaining the proposed price increase, the report said this would bring prices in line with similar attractions elsewhere, such as Swithens Farm or Thornton Hall Country Park.

Work is expected to start on the site during the winter of 2021/22, ready to be open in April 2022.

Last year, Temple Newsam Farm generated £238,794 in visitor income, but had to spend £345,253 on the farm’s operating costs. As the estate is owned by Leeds City Council, the taxpayer had to fund the £106,000 deficit.

The report added it is also proposed to allocate 10 percent of the gross surplus allowing support for families to access the attraction as well as allocate funds within deprived communities to help deliver improvement projects that benefit children.

It concluded: “This proposal presents an opportunity to conserve and reinvigorate a heritage asset by introducing a play barn in keeping with the education and recreational aims of the current farm attraction.

“The café will attract family visitors and ease demand on the existing courtyard café as well as increase its appeal to general park visitors. The play barn will appeal to older children currently less likely to visit and providing an indoor facility within the existing attraction will encourage visits all the year round.

“The growth in visitors and associated financial impact has been based on reasonable assumptions and the addition of a fund to help children in deprived communities provides a further example of enacting a compassionate city.”