Villagers living near Alton Towers theme park say despite the noise of thrill-seekers screaming and heavy traffic they still “love it” - and even get free tickets. The Staffordshire attraction is the largest theme park in the UK, with more than 5.6 million people visiting it each year.
But despite tourists bringing noise pollution and traffic chaos to the quaint nearby village of Alton, locals say having the theme park has major benefits. They have revealed how the passing trade provides a much-needed boost to the local economy and keeps businesses and property prices booming.
Residents also enjoy the unexpected perk of being given 20 free tickets a year to the popular theme park, which first opened in 1980. Alton has a population of just 2,500 people and is surrounded by rolling hills and countryside nestled next to the River Churnet.
Many locals have seen the site evolve from a small park offering donkey rides and boat trips to one of the nation’s most famous theme parks. Since the introduction of the then revolutionary Corkscrew rollercoaster in April 1980 the park now boasts 10 rollercoasters for adrenaline junkies.
As well as The Smiler, Nemesis, Oblivion and The Wicker Man there are more than 40 rides for visitors to enjoy as well as CBeebies Land for children. John Moorhouse, 73, moved to Alton from Birmingham with his wife Margaret to set up a B&B in the area.
He is now semi-retired and a director of the community-owned White Hart pub, which was saved by villagers several years ago. The dad-of-two said: “The traffic can be really bad, especially with the coaches. The roads aren’t really designed for them around here.
“If the wind is blowing in a certain direction you can hear the screams coming from the theme park but it’s not too bad and you get used to it. But all in all it’s great for local businesses around here.
“You get so much passing trade and we have a few rooms at the pub which get booked up quick. It’s a double-edged sword though as any properties that come up for sale get snapped up as Airbnbs.
“It’s not great for the youngsters around here trying to get homes in the village but it keeps the area thriving. I used to come to Alton Towers from Brum when I was a kid so I knew it was a nice area. I had a friend who lived in the village and moved here 38 years ago.
“We ran a B&B for many years and having the theme park nearby definitely helped. I still enjoy going on the rides but my children have most of the free tickets.” Frank Smith, 75, was born on a farm half a mile away from Alton Towers and has lived and worked there ever since.
The grandfather-of-three said: “It’s changed a lot over the years but I’ve always enjoyed living here. There used to be donkey rides, motorbike tracks and boat rides around the lake but now you have all these fancy rides.
“You used to catch a train or a bus to get around but these days everybody has cars so it’s bumper to bumper on the roads. The theme park has of course expanded over the years, so its got busier and busier.
“The start and end of the days are the worst with people arriving and then leaving later on, but you get used to it and the theme park is good for local businesses. I don’t make use of the tickets as much these days, the days of riding rollercoasters are behind me.”
Dad-of-three Tom Wilkinson, 40, who runs a finance company from a converted chapel in the village, said: “It’s all in all a real positive living near Alton Towers. The theme park sustains the village in the summer months with all the tourism so the locals can enjoy it more in winter.
“The pubs, shops and Airbnb’s all do well around here and its a very sought after area so property prices stay really healthy too. It’s brilliant to be able to take our children and having CBeebies Land on the doorstep.”
Dad-of-one Karl Jones, 49, moved from Leicester to Alton seven years ago and knew having Alton Towers on his doorstep would be a perk. He said: “I knew the traffic would be bad but compared to living in Leicester it’s fine really. Everybody is so much friendlier here too.
“Anyone who moves to Alton can’t really complain about traffic because you know you’re by a theme park. Alton Towers must generate so much money for the village. We love it, the free tickets are a great touch we can take our daughter there throughout the year.
“One time we went when the theme park was dead and we got to go around on the In The Night Garden ride repeatedly without having to queue. It’s a real perk and the theme park is great for sustaining local businesses and making Alton a really desirable area to live.”