Plan revealed for new cafe and playground at railway attraction
PUBLISHED: 08:33 24 April 2019
The owners of Audley End Miniature Railway hope to build a new cafe and playground to help the attraction become financially sustainable following the loss of its creator and benefactor, Lord Braybrooke.
The planning application submitted to Uttlesford District Council seeks permission for a replacement cafe, new timber play equipment, which replaces the existing play equipment, extended toilets and a shop.
The applicant says the existing tent and shed cafe buildings are poor quality and detract from the positive character of Audley End and the conservation area. The structures are not suitable for providing decent dining, the applicants say, and need to be replaced with a better quality, larger café.
The new café would provide indoor seating for about 110 guests, a larger kitchen, store room and toilets for guests and staff, and the design would emulate the pitched-roof volumes of traditional railway buildings using contemporary materials.
The design of the playground will also take inspiration from the railway and local features and will take the form of a train track with a number of activities such as slides, a ground play trail, climbing and clambering structures.
Audley End Miniature Railway was conceived by the late Lord Braybrooke in the early 1960s. Lord Braybrooke's passion for the railways, the grounds of his estate and the visitors attending Audley End House provided an opportunity to create an attraction within the original grounds of the house.
Lord Braybrooke was diagnosed with dementia in 2012 and, gradually, responsibility for managing the railway was passed to his daughter, Amanda Murray. Lord Braybrooke died in 2017 and his daughter took over management.
Despite the increase in total visitor numbers and turnover, the railway has not yet been able to deliver a sustainable profit. The applicant says overheads and employment costs have risen considerably in recent years and says the railway is no longer sustainable without its original benefactor.
To become sustainable, the railway needs to bring greater visitor numbers during quieter periods and the applicant believes a new cafe, with improved food choices, and a timber adventure play area will provide an improved experience and contribute to this aim.
Other plans include extending seasonal events, extending the retail space, and developing new entrance kiosks and covered areas. The railway also wants to offer engineering training and apprenticeship scheme within the fully equipped workshop to ensure that vital engineering skills are passed down, not lost and that the locomotives and carriages are correctly maintained.