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Duke and Duchess of Northumberland are blasted over plans to build a ‘tacky Disneyland’

Friends of Prince Charles have been criticised over plans to build a hobbit theme park next to a world-famous castle featured in Harry Potter.

The 12th Duke Ralph Percy, 62, and his wife Duchess Jane Percy, 60, want to convert several acres of gardens designed by Capability Brown near Alnwick Castle, Northumberland, into a theme park with hobbit walkways, climbing nets and a 600-person stadium. 

The proposed attractions have been slammed as like a ‘tacky Disneyland’ and ‘prejudicing’ the area’s historic character by campaigners. 

Friends of Prince Charles the 12th Duke Ralph Percy, 62, and his wife Duchess Jane Percy, 60, plan to build a Hobbit-themed play area on landscaped gardens near Alnwick castle, Northumberland

The proposed plans would see a hobbit-themed walkway and climbing nets, as well as an 'elfic' village and underground visitors centre built in the area

The proposed plans would see a hobbit-themed walkway and climbing nets, as well as an ‘elfic’ village and underground visitors centre built in the area

Alnwick castle shot to world fame after being featured in the Harry Potter movies

Alnwick castle shot to world fame after being featured in the Harry Potter movies

Planners at Labour-controlled Northumberland County Council are considering the application, which also includes an underground visitors centre, sprawling ‘elfic’ village, and tavern.

The Duchess and her husband, who have an estimated fortune of £315million, have already ploughed £9million into the project, now run by a non-profit charity.

Last year the Duchess claimed she had been discriminated against when her request for a £25million grant from the Big Lottery Fund Living Landmarks initiative was refused. 

The couple were also disappointed when a council loan of £8.5million for the project was withdrawn in 2017.  

The accompanying planning application with the council was scrapped, but it has been resubmitted with no financial support being offered by the authority.

The proposed site for the park, coloured red, and the parking area, coloured blue, are close to Alnwick castle. Residents say they will look like a 'tacky Disneyland' and 'prejudice' the area's character

The proposed site for the park, coloured red, and the parking area, coloured blue, are close to Alnwick castle. Residents say they will look like a ‘tacky Disneyland’ and ‘prejudice’ the area’s character

The park will also include a chapel and 600-person stadium built on the gardens designed by Capability Brown

The park will also include a chapel and 600-person stadium built on the gardens designed by Capability Brown

This image shows a map of the planned development area for the theme park

This image shows a map of the planned development area for the theme park

The Alnwick gardens were restored by the Duke and Duchess in 1997 and are popular with visitors to Alnwick

The Alnwick gardens were restored by the Duke and Duchess in 1997 and are popular with visitors to Alnwick

The charity plans to convert several acres of the gardens into what will be called the Lilidorei Play Village. 

It claims the project will boost the local economy by £236million and create 123 full-time jobs, but residents and environmentalists oppose the plans.

A resident, who has lived in the town for more than 40 years, said: ‘I have great admiration for the work the Duke and Duchess have done for the local area but I feel that this is a step too far.

Their daughter, Lady Melissa Percy, was married to Princess Charlotte's godfather, Thomas van Straubenzee

Their daughter, Lady Melissa Percy, was married to Princess Charlotte’s godfather, Thomas van Straubenzee

‘Bulldozing historic park lands to make way for what I can only describe is a tacky Disneyland is not right and will wreck the image and atmosphere of the area.

‘The castle is an iconic image in Alnwick but it’ll be muscled out by this Hobbit village. We’re one step away from having rollercoasters whizzing past the castle gates.’ 

David Wearn, who also lives in the area, said ‘the proposed development, which entails the conversion of an existing Capability Brown heritage landscape into an amusement park should be illegal’. 

Friends of the Earth Alnwick said the project will ‘seriously prejudice the local character of the area.’

Friends of the Earth said the project could open the way for 'future housing development in parkland' in the area

Friends of the Earth said the project could open the way for ‘future housing development in parkland’ in the area

A resident who has lived in Alnwick for 40 years said: 'Bulldozing historic parklands to make way for what I can only describe is a tacky Disneyland is not right and will wreck the image and atmosphere of the area'.

A resident who has lived in Alnwick for 40 years said: ‘Bulldozing historic parklands to make way for what I can only describe is a tacky Disneyland is not right and will wreck the image and atmosphere of the area’.

The plans for the theme park, which are now run by a charity, did not receive a £25million grant from the Big Lottery Fund when it was requested

The plans for the theme park, which are now run by a charity, did not receive a £25million grant from the Big Lottery Fund when it was requested

They said the town, which attracts thousands of tourists each year, would suffer from increased traffic, noise and light pollution from the theme park, and raised concerns that it could open the door to ‘further housing development in the parkland’. 

Previously, Mark Brassell, CEO of the Alnwick Garden said the play village would be ‘an international attraction to the UK’.

Alnwick Castle is world-famous after being the setting for Harry Potter’s Quidditch lessons, and a backdrop in TV comedy series Blackadder.

The gardens, that sit next to the castle, were redeveloped by the Duke and Duchess in 1997.

William and Harry attended the wedding of the Duke’s daughter, Lady Melissa Percy, and Princess Charlotte’s godfather, Thomas van Straubenzee, in 2013.

The marriage ended in divorce three years later after the couple separated in October 2015. Court papers mention Mr van Straubenzee’s ‘unreasonable behaviour’.

Mark Brassell, Director of the ‘The Alnwick Garden Trust’, said: ‘These descriptions of Lilidorei are way wide of the mark. Public support for the project at the time of the successful planning application was overwhelming. 

‘The Trust worked closely with Historic England at all times and we’ve been clear that Lilidorei will be constructed sensitively and in harmony with its surrounds, including using locally sourced materials and craftsmen. 

‘Lilidorei will bring jobs and a huge economic boost to Alnwick and the wider region, and it will bring the magic of play to thousands of children and their parents and grandparents.’

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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