THE Duchess of Northumberland's Alnwick Garden has been praised for its contribution to the local economy as it celebrates its 10th anniversary.
The attraction, which opened in a blaze of publicity in 2002, has delivered £150m in economic benefits to the UK, the report shows.
The independent study also shows that 3.8 million people have poured through the garden’s doors since 2003 – around four times more than had been expected when construction began. For every £1 spent at the garden, an additional 85p is generated within the immediate local economy.
The report also reveals that for every 10 jobs created at the attraction, which employs 331 people every year, a further 2.4 are generated in the area.
The garden was designed by famous Belgian architects Jacques and Peter Wirtz and has been developed in phases over the 10 years. It boasts the world’s largest wheelchair-accessible tree house and a Poison Garden.
The attraction has also hit the headlines for employing French Disneyland boss Christian Perdrier as chief executive and for a one-off move to partial opening in winter, which resulted in some job losses.
The duchess said: “The Alnwick Garden is a charitable enterprise designed to deliver real benefits to the North East.
“We didn’t waver in the face of criticism in the early years because the critics misunderstood the garden’s main purpose.
“I am thrilled to hear that the project has delivered so much, both economically and socially, over the past decade.
“When we said 17 years ago that we wanted to grow cannabis, opium and deadly nightshade, and secure wheelchair access to 50ft high rope bridges, nobody believed it was possible.
“But we have stayed true to the vision and delivered an unparalleled, family-friendly, public attraction to rival anything in Europe. And the best bit is – there’s more to come.”
A leading business figure in the region last night praised the attraction.
Ken McMeikan, Greggs chief executive and the Prince of Wales Ambassador for North East for Business in the Community, said: “The Alnwick Garden is simply stunning and an outstanding example of an iconic North East gem that does so much for the local and regional economy.
At the same time it is an inspiration and source of great pride for everyone in the North East, a working public garden that attracts people from around the world.
“The vision, energy and determination of the Duchess of Northumberland to create something so magnificent over the past two decades is amazing and with support there is even more that can and must be achieved to ensure that the vision is fully realised.”