The owner of Scarborough’s Alpamare water park has gone into administration amid calls for a “full investigation” into the use of public funds. 

The developer of Alpamare water park, Benchmark Leisure Ltd, has gone into administration leading residents, businesses, and politicians to express sadness and disappointment at the news. 

In addition to possible impacts on the local economy, questions have also been raised about millions of pounds of taxpayer money that was loaned to the developer in 2013.

Sir Robert Goodwill, the MP for Scarborough and Whitby, has called for “a full forensic investigation into how these finances have been managed”. 

He added: “Right from the start Benchmark have failed to deliver what they said they would and sadly it’s come to this”.

The news follows a shock announcement earlier this month by the company when it announced a “temporary” closure and said there was a “plan to re-open in Spring 2024”. 

Administrators have told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) that the situation is “complex” and different options, including the sale of the facility, are being considered but stressed that “it is early days”.

Sir Robert told the LDRS: “In my view, the priority of North Yorkshire Council should be to try and get it reopened by Easter, it is an asset that we should ensure continues to deliver for locals and tourists alike.”

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 as of November last year, it still owed North Yorkshire Council £7.8m.

Benchmark Leisure has been a considerable contributor to tourism in the area and was involved in several projects including apartments, chalets, a hotel, and a pub.

Shirley Smith, president of the Scarborough Hospitality Association, described it as “a crying shame”, adding that she was concerned about the loss of business “especially from day trippers”.

She said: “It was a beautiful place to go and the best thing we had in Scarborough, we could even go there in the winter when there was nothing else.”

North Yorkshire Council’s corporate director for community development, Nic Harne, said the council had been notified and would be “liaising with the administrators and considering all options available to us at this time with a view to minimising the impact on us and the Scarborough area.”

Coun Eric Broadbent, who represents the Northstead division where the waterpark is based, said: “It’s very sad and I’m very disappointed as there will be a knock-on effect and local people will feel it.”

Lindsey Prior-Mckie, who owns the Super Swim Academy that ran classes at Alpamare, said she had “already been preparing for the possibility that it wouldn’t reopen” following the original announcement about a temporary closure due to high energy costs.  

She said that the sudden closure would have a serious impact on her business as she had already had to cancel and refund the bookings of 150 children who were set to take part in a 10-week swimming course. 

Ms Prior-Mckie added: “That money was in the bank and was meant to last over Christmas, but that’s pretty much gone now.” 

Becky Ansari, from Oxford, said she usually visits Alpamare once or twice a year with her family as “it’s one of the few places that adults and kids can go to relax and have fun together”. 

She told the LDRS: “It’s a real shame if it closes as I don’t know where we could find such a nice place that suits everyone, there’s nothing like it near us in Oxford.”

The possibility of North Yorkshire Council taking over the operation of the park on a temporary basis has been suggested but 

Ian Ashton, chair of the Herriot Country Tourism Group, said while the water park represented a small part of North Yorkshire’s extensive offer for visitors, it played a substantial role in the Scarborough area.

He added: “I would think the 150,000 people who visit the water park would find something else to do as there’s plenty to do in Scarborough. At the end of the day that’s an awful lot of money to lose.”