Alpamare, Scarborough: Councillors approve new operator with ‘final terms’ set to be agreed

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North Yorkshire Ccouncil has decided to appoint its chosen operator for Scarborough’s Alpamare water park – but the operator is yet to be named publicly.

The council will appoint its “preferred bidder” to operate the North Bay water park, following a meeting of the authority’s executive on Tuesday, May 21.

Following a closed-door session, councillors gave officers the authority to finalise agreements for a 12-month lease of the leisure site.

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However, the name of the operator and other details about the terms of the lease were not revealed due to “commercial sensitivity”.

The Alpamare site in Scarborough's North Bay.picture: NYCThe Alpamare site in Scarborough's North Bay.picture: NYC
The Alpamare site in Scarborough's North Bay.picture: NYC

North Yorkshire Council took control of the site last year when developer Benchmark Leisure Ltd went into administration.

Alpamare opened in Scarborough’s North Bay in 2016 with the help of a £9m bail-out loan from the now-defunct Scarborough Council and it still owed the authority £7.8m last year.

North Yorkshire Council has said there would be “no further payments” of the loan.

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Coun Gareth Dadd, deputy leader, told the meeting: “This is a situation which the authority has inherited, it wasn’t of our design or desire.

North Yorkshire Council's executive committee meeting.picture: LDRSNorth Yorkshire Council's executive committee meeting.picture: LDRS
North Yorkshire Council's executive committee meeting.picture: LDRS

“This was originally designed as a commercial venture, it was not designed as a council-run leisure opportunity.

“It’s clear that this authority and indeed the former borough of Scarbrough does not have the expertise to run such a commercial venture.

“It is for that reason that we’ve sought to have the experts run it, certainly in the short term.”

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However, concerns were raised that a new operator would price out locals, something which residents have said was previously also an issue.

Scarborough councillor Rich Maw said: “It’s a concern that the council is still not agreeing that over the long-term there should be a focus on the health and well-being of the community and not purely focussed on tourism.

“The focus on tourism alone has failed and we need an affordable ticket price to ensure that locals have access all year round.”

Coun Dadd said he recognised the concerns but noted that the public funds required to run it as a council operation would be “unreachable”.

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Officers said “various options” had been considered and it was decided that a “short-term” 12-month rental opportunity with the possibility of a year’s extension was considered the “only feasible option to ensure a summer 2024 reopening”.

However, they added that the “details of the offer are commercially sensitive”.

Questions remain about the millions of pounds of taxpayer money loaned to Benchmark including details about a closed-door session of the now-defunct Scarborough Council when it approved the major loan.

North Yorkshire Council launched an investigation in November and said that it was “progressing well”.

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As part of its new agreement with the chosen operator, the authority has also approved the use of “any associated tenant incentives”.

A council officer said: “It was never intended to be a community facility or to be run by the council, or to be cross-subsidised annually in any way by the council.”

“The council does see the importance of this asset from a tourism perspective so we’ve always had an ambition to get it operational for this summer season.”

However, councillors also agreed that if the authority was “unable to finalise the terms of the lease” with the preferred bidder it would “immediately commence a review of the long-term options” for Alpamare.