Thousands turn out for castle exhibition

Duchy of Lancaster welcomes more than 2,200 to community consultation event

An overwhelming response to the Duchy of Lancaster’s invitation to the city’s residents saw more than 2,200 people turn out to give their views on the future of the castle. The great John O’Gaunt Gate was thrown open for the four-day public consultation event held last week in the former prison visitor’s centre, where concepts for the castle’s future use were unveiled.

Many hundreds of people took the opportunity to step into the courtyard of the former HMP Lancaster Castle, to visit the exhibition and give their thoughts on the Duchy’s proposals for a mixed-use public space with visitor attraction and boutique hotel. Just over a quarter of visitors filled in a feedback form and recorded their support or opposition to the proposals.

When asked if they supported the proposals, 66 per cent of respondents said yes, 30 per cent said yes with reservations, and two per cent said no (two per cent were unmarked). Those unable to visit the exhibition in person still have chance to express their views through the dedicated consultation website before the feedback deadline of this Sunday, November 11th.

Paul Clarke, CEO of the Duchy of Lancaster, was delighted with the turnout. He said:

“We expected there would be a large amount of interest in the proposals for the use of the castle now the prison has closed, and we were not disappointed. To take forward our vision of integrating the castle into the life of the city and enabling more people to use and enjoy it, the support of the local community will be absolutely vital, so we are very pleased that people took the time to visit the exhibition, ask questions and give us their thoughts and ideas.

“We are also pleased that so many people are in support of what we are trying to do, with 96 per cent of people generally in favour. We will of course review all the comments, in particular the reservations some people had, and will see where there are improvements or alterations that can be made ahead of any future planning application.”

Following the closure of the prison earlier this year, the Duchy has worked with heritage experts Malcolm Reading Consultants to identify potential future uses for the castle. The proposals put forward at the exhibition aim to end the physical and psychological separation of the castle from the city of Lancaster, to encourage visitors and local residents to use the castle and its precincts, and to ensure the building is preserved and has a sustainable future.

The feedback will now be formally analysed and, following completion of the Duchy’s financial viability studies, a planning application will be drawn up and submitted by early 2014,. It is hoped work would start by the end of 2014 and the new development could be open by spring 2017.

The deadline for feedback submitted by post or through the website is midnight on Sunday, November 11th.