A fundraising appeal launched by the Wicksteed Charitable Trust has topped £370,000 after The National Lottery Heritage Fund announced it was providing an emergency grant of £247,000.
The money, added to more than £123,000 raised by well-wishers and the local community in the ongoing fundraising campaign, will be used to safeguard the park and help it to build for the future.
The park is owned by Wicksteed Charitable Trust but was run by a wholly-owned subsidiary company, Wicksteed Park Ltd.
Wicksteed Park Ltd was unable to avoid going into administration last week, with the loss of 48 permanent staff and 67 part-time and other jobs, due to the huge financial strain caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
A new company, funded by the Trust, is a much streamlined business aimed at getting the park through to next spring when it can hopefully reopen fully. It has successfully acquired most of the park’s assets and is working to try and secure the remainder.
The £370,000 generated so far will help the Trust to continue to support free access to the park and will be used for staffing, security, insurance, utility bills, maintenance, refuse collection and looking after the animals as well as things such as grass cutting and hedge cutting.
And following the Government’s relaxation of the lockdown restrictions, the park’s new company are looking closely at what may be achievable in the weeks and months ahead in terms of re-opening some of the park’s attractions.
Oliver Wicksteed, the chairman of the Wicksteed charity, said the amazing and ongoing support received from local people coupled with the money from The National Lottery Heritage Fund would go a long way to helping the park recover and prosper.
He said: “The cost of operating the country park alone, without the park’s rides and attractions, is around £110,000 a month.
“The Trust was able to step in to secure the park in the short term but when we launched our fundraising appeal we deliberately didn’t set a target because the situation regarding coronavirus and the guidelines we are being given are changing on a regular basis, and so the amount we might need to see the park through to next spring and reopen fully is also changing.
“The response from local people has been truly outstanding and we can’t thank them enough for what they have done and what they continue to do.
“One important thing to come out of this situation is that more people now realise that the park is owned by a charity and, as with other charities, it needs ongoing support from fundraisers and donations in order to flourish.
“Traditionally the Trust has not had that but it has now, and long may that continue.”
“We are also extremely grateful that thanks to the National Lottery and its players, The National Lottery Heritage Fund is also supporting us at this crucial time – it’s a lifeline to us and others who are passionate about sustaining heritage for the benefit of all.”
The emergency funding was awarded through The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s Heritage Emergency Fund. £50million has been made available to provide emergency funding for those most in need across the heritage sector.
The UK-wide fund will address both immediate emergency actions and help organisations to start thinking about recovery.
Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “Heritage has an essential role to play in making communities better places to live, supporting economic regeneration and benefiting our personal wellbeing. All of these things are going to be even more important as we emerge from this current crisis.
“Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players we are pleased to be able to lend our support to organisations such as the Wicksteed Charitable Trust during this uncertain time.”
The coronavirus outbreak left the Trust with no income for months, apart from a small amount of car parking revenue.
The Wicksteed Charity has said it will endeavour to continue funding the opening of the park and Pavilion so that people can still enjoy it whilst exercising and also to appreciate the open space which is crucial to physical and mental wellbeing.
The Charity has also pledged to honour any bookings for forthcoming events as well as annual passes and will endeavour to retain functions and shows in the park Pavilion as soon as government guidelines allow and it is practical.
The Wicksteed Charitable Trust has a JustGiving page https://www.justgiving.com/wicksteedcharitabletrust