Wednesday, 19 September 2012
Duchy's plans for Lancaster Castle move a step closer
(Updated 20/9/12) After a six-month study by heritage experts Malcolm Reading Consultants and workshops with key stakeholders, the Duchy of Lancaster has unveiled potential plans for Lancaster Castle have moved a step closer - and an exhibition is being organised to present them at the end of October.
Their plan - which would appear to echo the way Oxford Castle was recently re-developed - is for the castle complex to be transformed into a new mixed-used urban quarter, which could include a potential visitor attraction, boutique hotel, plus arts and performance space.
The ideas and concepts for the historic landmark would, the Duchy says, ensure that the castle has a sustainable future by preserving its fabric, encouraging people to use the building and its grounds and providing a diverse range of activity.
The concept for the visitor attraction is a museum highlighting judicial and penal history in Britain throughout the last 1,000 years. A number of the existing prison buildings would be sympathetically converted and historic structures such as Adrian’s Tower, the Keep and the Witches Dungeon used to illustrate the castle as a place of incarceration.
A boutique hotel would offer high quality, four-star accommodation comprising 50-75 rooms with the scope to include a signature restaurant, conference and events space, luxury facilities such as spa and gym, plus suites which could cater for wedding parties.
In addition to the hotel and visitor attraction, there is also potential for additional commercial and cultural uses, such as areas for artists’ studios and workshops, as well as public art displays, outdoors performances and festivals.
The Duchy has also had initial discussions with Lancaster University regarding using part of the space for some of its departments or conferences.
The plans the Duchy have announced sound similar to the redevelopment of Oxford Castle prison, now the 'Castle Quarter' of that centre of academia. There, the development includes many initiatives encouraging local business, a lively events programme and more.
The site was once home to the Norman Oxford Castle, then the infamous Oxford Prison. Parts of those historic buildings remain and have shaped the development of Oxford Castle Quarter as it stands today, including St George’s Tower and the Castle Mound. The secrets of the site’s history are unlocked in a visitor attraction, Oxford Castle – Unlocked. The rest of Oxford Castle Quarter is now home to a hub of bars and restaurants, and also boasts O3 Gallery, offering a programme of exhibitions and events all year round. The Malmaison Boutique Hotel is also part of the heritage development.
“We have reached an exciting phase in the future of Lancaster Castle and are really looking forward to sharing our ideas with the local community," comments Paul Clarke, CEO at the Duchy of Lancaster.
“We still have a long way to go in terms of finalising the plans to ensure that the vision is financially viable and deliverable, but this initial proposal is a major step forward. We are confident that our ideas would enable Lancaster Castle to become a powerful new tourist attraction that would significantly boost the local economy, create jobs and transform the use of the city centre for residents and visitors.
“We hope that local people will take the opportunity to visit the exhibition next month to learn more about the plans and provide their feedback.”
Malcolm Reading, chairman of MRC said: “We’ve been encouraged by the appetite locally to engage with this fascinating project. A building of many aspects and many lives, the castle will absorb change and prove itself again as a great asset to the city and wider county.
“Until now it’s been closed-in on itself, both as a fortress and a prison, but as the Duchy opens it up, it will be re-discovered. It will be satisfying to see this emblematic, confident architecture put to better purpose and speak to new audiences.”
In addition to the public consultation, the Duchy will undertake detailed financial modelling and viability studies to help finalise its initial plans by the end of this year. If viable, it is hoped that planning permission would be achieved by early 2014 and that work would start by the end of the same year with the new development being open by spring 2017.
• Further information on the plans will be displayed at a public exhibition, which will take place at Lancaster Castle from Monday, 29th October – Friday 2nd November 2012. Members of the public will be able to provide their feedback on the initial proposals and speak to representatives from the Duchy of Lancaster and MRC.