Business rates defeat for Alton Towers

Alton Towers’ appeal to reduce its business rates due to a fall in the public’s interest in rollercoasters has been dismissed at a valuation tribunal.

The theme park has seen a decline in visitors following a crash on its Smiler ride that left five passengers seriously injured in June 2015. The ride reopened in March 2016 following an investigation into the crash, which concluded that the accident was a result of human error when an operator manually overrode the ride safety system.

Merlin Entertainments, the park’s owner, compared the public’s decline in interest of rollercoasters after the crash to worries over air travel following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The appeal investigated whether the accident was the sole reason for a drop in visitors. However the judgement ruled that it’s impossible to tell how much the Smiler incident affected attendance to the park.

Tribunal chairman Mr Garland said: “There is no doubt that attendances did reduce following the incident and persisted at the material day. However, what was not known is how much of that was down to a change in attitude of members of the public to thrill rides, the weather, better alternatives, pricing policy, the possible lack of new appealing rides or a lack of confidence in the site owners (as opposed to the park or thrill rides). Indeed, no evidence was put forward that thrill rides at other locations, although on a smaller scale, in England had suffered similar falls.”

Alton Towers’ annual rateable value has been £4m since 2015, when it was increased to reflect a new development at the theme park.