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Venue bosses shelve plans for £4m tourist attraction because of Covid

PUBLISHED: 11:00 06 October 2020 | UPDATED: 11:00 06 October 2020

A £4m new tourist attraction has been put on hold at the Thursford Collection. Pic: Feilden+Mawson architects.

A £4m new tourist attraction has been put on hold at the Thursford Collection. Pic: Feilden+Mawson architects.

Archant

A 27,000sqft new interactive attraction with a play area and restaurant has been scrapped at Norfolk’s Thursford Collection.

The Enchanted Journey of Light is coming to Thursford next month. Pic: The Thursford CollectionThe Enchanted Journey of Light is coming to Thursford next month. Pic: The Thursford Collection

Planning permission was granted last year for bosses at the venue, near Fakenham, to create the new indoor, interactive space based around steam as well as an outdoor recreation area, restaurant and a 96-space staff car park.

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The project was intended to make Thursford a year-round destination for families, re-inventing its current steam museum, which houses the world’s largest collection of steam engines and musical organs including the ‘Mighty Wurlitzer’ with 1,339 pipes, as well as traditional fairground carousels.

Despite this being the original reason the Collection was founded, it had seen visitor numbers decline.

But George Cushing, Thursford’s projects and marketing manager, and son of chief executive John Cushing, told this newspaper the entire project was on hold because of Covid. The venue had to cancel its annual Christmas Extravaganza, usually attracting more than 100,000 people.

It is holding an Enchanted Journey of Light show in its place which has sold 18,000 tickets.

“The project is on hold for four-five years. Thank goodness we hadn’t started it otherwise we’d have been in serious trouble,” he said. “It was devastating for the (Christmas) show to be cancelled but the sales of the Enchanted Journey of Light are going well.

“It’s very Covid-secure and we’ve worked hard to ensure people will feel safe.”

The children’s play project took Thursford three years to get to planning approval stage and was due to open in Easter 2021.

The new attraction, aimed to offer ‘something Norfolk had never had before’ was going to include a coffee house and restaurant but with an emphasis on learning through play.

It was going to involve schools too, educating on the steam heritage Thursford is famous for, having been founded by the late George Cushing who started out exhibiting his steam engines in old farm sheds, the start of the attraction.


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