Castle future on backburner

Views of Lancaster taken from the top of the Norman keep within the grounds of Lancaster Castle.
Views of Lancaster taken from the top of the Norman keep within the grounds of Lancaster Castle.

Major plans to redevelop Lancaster Castle have been put on hold.

The castle’s owners The Duchy of Lancaster will however carry out a £3m programme of works over the next two years to repair 70 per cent of the castle’s roofs and deal with weather damage to the fabric of the 1,000-year-old Grade II Listed building.

Chris Adcock, chief finance officer for the Duchy, visited the castle on Monday and described it as a “national treasure” and “the jewel in the Duchy’s crown”.

He said the focus in the short-term was to develop the castle as an events venue and bring it the recognition it deserves.

He said: “Over the next 18 months to two years we will spend £3m on things you probably won’t see.

“The castle’s roofs are not in very good shape. We think about 70 per cent of the roofs will need some work.

“There’s lots of other areas where the wind and rain is getting in and needs repair work.

“We’re focusing on getting the castle battened down at the moment, but in three years we will have much more to say.”

The work is due to start in late Autumn and the castle will remain open, with some areas closed off to the public. When the castle closed as a prison in 2012, the Duchy commissioned a consultation which asked for suggestions on the castle’s future uses.

Responses included a hotel, bars, restaurants, and a museum of crime and punishment, but Mr Adcock said “everything was on the table”.

He said: “With regards the long-term there’s very little we can say at the moment, but we are working on it.

“Our focus at the moment is to maintain the castle as an events venue, to get it recognised and visited by a wider range of people.

“The other uses are on the backburner and are at least three years away. The castle has been around that long, we don’t want to rush anything.”

The Duchy is however looking to open up additional areas around the castle’s courtyard in the short-term, but would be looking for a commercial return.

“Any ideas are welcome but it needs to be on a commercial basis as the castle is obviously expensive to run.

“It hasn’t come without its problems taking over a 100,000 sq-ft, 1,000-year-old castle but it’s going to be a fascinating journey once we get started.

“This is the jewel in the Duchy’s crown and quite rightly a national treasure.

“For the time being the courtyard will remain freely open for the public during the day, with a small cost when events are on.”

Mr Adcock said that the Duchy would be going out on a formal tender basis for the roof work on July 22 and was keen to use local firms.

More about plans for the future of Lancaster Castle and an interview with event manager Francesca Lewis – Page 98