Owners of the Big Sheep theme park say a brand new rollercoaster has helped the attraction smash visitor numbers during the Easter holiday. The new 28-seater ride thought to be the largest and most expensive ever installed in the South West opened on Good Friday after more than eight years in the planning. Owner Rick Turner said it had been a huge hit with the visitors. We have experienced the busiest Easter for 30 years which is remarkable considering how early it was which normally means slightly less people in the area on holiday, he said. Visitor numbers are up by over 20 per cent on our record ever Easter period and we are bracing ourselves for a similar increase over the coming weeks and months. This is fantastic for The Big Sheep, the team of people who run the site and the wider tourism industry of North Devon who will all benefit from having an investment of this size into the attractions of the area. We will know more about the long term impact of the ride when we do our first summer, but we are expecting 2016 to be another record season We are already looking at increasing our capacity for parking, admissions, catering and other areas of the park. Mr Turner said the ride would encourage visitors from throughout the South West as well as the rollercoaster fanatics from around the UK. We have already had a visit from Paul Burton, the chairman of the European Roller Coaster Club, who rode the ride when it was running at the Metro Centre in Newcastle, he said. He was totally impressed by the scale and size of the works we have done and how much bigger it appears here on the site. Mr Turner said other thrill-seekers had included a 90-year-old rider and one seven-year-old who rode the ride 50 times in one day. The 400m-long rollercoaster is more than 12m high and reaches speeds of almost 30mph. It was purchased by the Big Sheep in 2008, where it previously ran in the first floor of the Metro Centre shopping centre in Newcastle. The multi-million-pound ride was granted planning permission by Torridge District Council in 2012. This has been a long time coming, said Mr Turner. We had planned to open last year, but with the extra safety checks and measures we were instructed to do it has cost a considerable amount more and resulted in unforeseeable delays. We have been delighted that the significant amount we have spent on noise dampening around the ride has worked and neighbours have all said how little impact it has.