A NEW eye-catching £1.4m children's play area has opened at Cheshire Oaks today (August 10).

General manager Kenny Murray has described the attraction as "unique" and "genuinely special".

The spectacular play area, based in the food quarter which includes McDonald's and the recently opened Mowgli restaurant, features climbing frames inside towers, slides big and small, and mini trampolines.

It caters for children up to the age of 12.

To celebrate the opening, youngsters from Ellesmere Port-based children's charity Passion for Learning – which Cheshire Oaks is supporting throughout 2021 – got the opportunity to be the first to try out the new attraction.

Northwich Guardian:

A delighted Mr Murray told The Standard: "This isn't a bog standard play area. It's unique in its design. We think it is genuinely special.

"It's not just about creating a shopping experience here, it's about creating a guest experience and our guests are not just adults – they're children too.

"Families are a huge part of what we do. As an outlet centre we're a destination in our own right. People will travel from afar to come here and we have to make sure we cater for families.

"As a dad myself, I know happy children means happy parents. They're relaxed and are able to have an enjoyable time.

"We've moved the play area closer to the eateries with that in mind, so families can have dinner and then the children can go and enjoy the park.

"The timing is perfect. A lot of people in the UK are on staycations and we know – for instance we've had families from Scotland at the centre – that a lot are on holiday in Cheshire.

"We wanted to get it open for the summer and we're delighted that we've been able to do that."

Northwich Guardian:

Mr Murray says the launch of the new play area has been a "long time in the making", especially with progress temporarily hampered by the Covid-19 pandemic.

He added: "Back in 2018 when we looked at the old play area we felt that we could do better. We worked with an organisation called Carve to create something that was special.

"The canopy above the play area is very striking and something you can see from other parts of the centre. We wanted to create something that was a statement.

"We've tried to make sure we've catered for a mixed range of abilities. It's taken us some time to get it right but perfection takes time.

"Hearing the squeals of happiness from the children using it for the first time has been fantastic especially when you reflect on what we've been through during the last 18 months.

Northwich Guardian:

"It's a word that has been used a lot but it has been an unprecedented time. Although our footfall hasn't returned to the levels of 2019, our sales are actually above 2019 figures.

"During the summer we have longer opening hours and we're finding that people like the opportunity to come down later in the evening and avoid the busier times.

"People's shopping habits have changed anyway. Going back say 10 years you would walk around the centre at 5.30pm and it would be our quietest time as everyone had made their way home.

"Now people like to come later on, have dinner and then do their shopping."