The following statement has been published by The Alnwick Garden Trust:
The Alnwick Garden closed to the public on the 21st of March 2020 in order to ensure the safety of our visitors, staff and volunteers and as well as comply with the Government’s social distancing guidance. We immediately placed all our staff on furlough status and have taken all steps to reduce our cost base. The team have responded well to this and morale is high.
The Trust is in a reasonably strong financial position compared to many other tourism businesses in the area, having the luxury of significant reserves to fall back on. We had approximately £832k of free cash reserves moving into the crisis. These reserves are currently being used to cover The Garden’s fixed costs. Currently our free cash holdings amount to £739k but we are due to be reimbursed approximately £15k from the Job Retention scheme for the last two weeks from the furlough process.
It is difficult to accurately pin down what The Garden’s fixed costs will be mainly due to the fact that utility costs are such a high proportion of these. We have never totally shut down the site before, so we have no idea of what our electricity and gas costs are in this scenario. With this in mind, we estimate the following burn rate in terms of monthly expenditure while on lockdown:
|Fixed Operational Costs||£56,000|
|Reimbursed (Job Retention Scheme)||£-103,000|
|Total Monthly Cost||£77,000|
A number of scenarios are being modelled at the moment to project the cash flows depending on the length of the lock down. At this stage the Trust should have enough in reserve to survive well into the Autumn if the Job Retention scheme continues.
The financial situation will be even stronger if things get back to normal by the end of June. A more challenging situation would be a more prolonged downturn where visitor numbers are reduced. In this scenario The Garden’s Halloween and Christmas events will have to be significantly curtailed. In the worst-case scenario it may mean The Garden closing for this season and only opening in Easter 2021. This would mean making use of the Government’s business interruption loan scheme or the proceeds of the bond issue.
The philosophy over the coming weeks and months is to adapt quickly to the evolving environment and make use of all the Government support possible. In addition to this, once The Garden reopens the Marketing teams will be promoting the health benefits of being an open green space. We believe that there will be a surge of visitors to the kind of environment The Garden offers.
In terms of the Lilidorei Project, the Grant was released by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government by the deadline of 31 March 2020. The local custodians of the funding are the Northumberland County Council. We are anticipating our first payment of £1m in the next week. The proceeds of the Grant will be deposited in a separate bank account restricted for the project. The proceeds of the bond issue were deposited in the same restricted account and the figures above exclude this.
In the meantime, the Lilidorei project has kicked off and the design team have already started work on the detailed design phase.