Crime past to inspire future of castle

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A BOUTIQUE hotel, restaurant, and a museum of crime and punishment all form part of a new “mixed use urban quarter” for the city, with Lancaster Castle as its centrepiece.

The development, which could be completed as early as 2017, would see Lancaster “finally punching our weight” in tourism terms, and could be a greater attraction than York Minster and Durham Cathedral, according to business leaders.

Following a six-month study by heritage experts and workshops with key stakeholders, 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 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 four-star accommodation, comprising 50 – 75 rooms with the scope to include a signature restaurant, conference and events space, and facilities such as a spa and gym, and suites catering for wedding parties.

Artists’ studios and workshops also form part of the plans, as well as public art displays, outdoors performances and festivals.

The Duchy of Lancaster, which owns the castle, has also held discussions with Lancaster University about using part of the space for some of its departments or conferences.

A public consultation and exhibition is due to take place at the castle from Monday, October 29, to Friday, November 2.

Lancaster and District Chamber of Commerce said that the importance of the castle to Lancaster’s commercial and cultural future cannot be underestimated.

Chief executive Ann Morris said: “The castle has the potential to be as great, if not greater, a tourist attraction for the city as York Minster and Durham Cathedral are for their respective locations.

“It is interesting to see that the timescales envisaged by the Duchy follow almost exactly those proposed for the Canal Corridor development and the anticipated completion of the M6 Link, both yet to receive planning permission, all three of which would augment considerably our district’s appeal to both our local users and, more importantly for our economy, the wider tourism spend.

“2017 could see the Lancaster district’s profile raised dramatically both regionally and nationally and see us finally punching our weight in tourism terms.”

Paul Clarke, CEO at the Duchy of Lancaster said: “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.

“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.”

Following the public consultation, the Duchy will look at funding and viability issues to help finalise plans by the end of the year.

If the plans are viable, planning permission would be sought by early 2014, with work to start by the end of the same year.

On Saturday, September 22, a drop-in session and workshop is being held between 2pm and 8pm on the Priory Green and The Storey, for people to share their ideas about the future of the area surrounding the castle between the railway station and the Maritime Museum.