The Duchy of Lancaster has announced that Lancaster Castle will not reopen to the public in September but will remain closed until the end of October 2019. This is due to health and safety concerns following the discovery of electrical cabling buried underneath the lower courtyard.
Commenting on the news, Duchy Head of Communications Debbie Garritty said: “The Duchy is committed to restoring this important heritage asset for generations to come. While we regret that the current phase of conservation work is taking longer than anticipated, we must make public safety our first priority. With this in mind we feel that we have no alternative but to remain closed until the end of October. This will enable us to ensure that all areas are publicly accessible, secure and safe.”
As a result, the Castle will not be able to operate as the ‘main stage’ venue for this year’s Lancaster Music Festival from 10th to 14th October 2019. The Duchy has been working closely with event organisers and City Council teams to identify suitable alternatives for the headline acts previously scheduled to perform at the Castle. These will include Lancaster University’s student ‘nightclub’ The Sugarhouse and a brand new event venue for the city, converted warehouse Kanteena in Lancaster’s Canal Quarter.
“We believe that Lancaster Castle should serve as the main hub for community and cultural activities serving the city,” added Debbie, “and we look forward to hosting a full programme of events once this current phase of works is completed.”
Following a 24-month overhaul, HMS Lancaster is now fully staffed once again with all 129 crew members back on board. The 4,500-ton Type 23 frigate has undergone an extensive upgrade and refit over the past two years including the installation of the new Artisan 3D radar, improved navigational radar and a new generation Sea Ceptor missile system to protect the vessel against attack from the air.
Affectionately referred to as the ‘Red Rose’, HMS Lancaster is now moving onto the next major milestone of her Ready For Sea Date. The crew hope to sail the ship back into Portsmouth under its own power for the first time in nearly four years in time for Christmas this year.
In early 2020 the ship will undergo further sea trials to ensure that all of her onboard systems are functioning efficiently. Once maximum operational capability has been tried and tested the crew plan to sail to Liverpool where a delegation will disembark for a visit to the city of Lancaster and a service of rededication at Lancaster Town Hall.
Commenting on the refit of HMS Lancaster, Senior Naval Officer and Weapons Engineering Officer Lieutenant Commander Mike Bray said: “I would like to personally thank all of HMS Lancaster Ship’s Company who have worked tirelessly to achieve the move on board. This is a major achievement and the effort required to make this happen should not be underestimated. We now look to the future and our Ready For Sea Date in December.”
As Duke of Lancaster Her Majesty The Queen first launched the Type 23 frigate in 1990. She continues to take a keen interest in the life and work of the ship and spent a day on board with the crew in 2014.
A community project to transform a neglected and overgrown half acre site on the Duchy’s Cheshire Survey into an attractive and sustainable public space is taking shape, thanks in part to an award from the Duchy of Lancaster Benevolent Fund.
Located in front of St. Michael’s Church in the conservation hamlet of Crewe Green, the site abuts the Church wall and lych-gate but access has not been possible for several years and until recently the ground was covered with leaf mould, ground elder, brambles and unwanted debris. Now the entire area has been cleared, the original path restored and enhanced to permit disabled access and the historic oak tree in the centre of the space revealed to be enjoyed by future generations.
Working with the Parish Council and the Church Warden local resident Lynn Halliburton has rallied other local businesses and partner organisations to support the cause. “I really do believe that this space could become a restful and low maintenance garden for all members of the community. We want to encourage residents to take ownership of the garden and add to its development. There has already been talk of creating a sensory garden and we are organising a community bulb planting day later in the year.”
Duchy Head of Rural Christopher Sparrow has congratulated the Parish Council on the impressive progress made to date: “Community spaces are a vital part of village life and we are keen to support the Parish Council where we can on projects of this nature. The Benevolent Fund was set up to support community initiatives which enrich the lives of residents across the County Palatine and this project undoubtedly falls into that category. The approach to Crewe Green is a key thread through the Duchy estate and this new community space will definitely enhance its aspect and provide this historic Church with the setting it deserves.”
The hamlet of Crewe Green forms part of the Duchy of Lancaster’s Crewe estate which extends to 1,402 hectares to the east of the town centre. St Michaels Church and the adjoining vicarage were both built in 1857 for the 3rd Lord Crewe to a design by the renowned architect Sir George Gilbert Scott. The Grade II listed Church is recorded in the National Heritage List for England and the hamlet of Crewe Green contains 22 other Grade I and Grade II listed buildings, many of which remain in the ownership of the Duchy.
Aldi is to build a new store on the North West corner of the Crewe estate in Cheshire.
At a meeting of the Cheshire East Strategic Planning Board last month Councillors voted to approve the application and permit the development on a 1.5-hectare site off University Way. The decision overturns a previous recommendation for refusal on the grounds that the site was allocated for employment in the Local Plan.
Councillors argued that the employment opportunities offered by the new store, together with overwhelming public support for the scheme justified a change in policy to allow permission to be granted.
Commenting on the decision Duchy Head of Project Management Graeme Chalk said: “This is a high quality scheme which enhances this area of the town and offers over 50 new jobs for local people. It will also bring an empty site into productive use and avoids the potential of Aldi leaving Crewe altogether. We believe that it will assist in the ongoing regeneration of this area of the town and look forward to working with Aldi as they deliver the new store in the months ahead.”
The new Aldi stores will replace the retailer’s existing shop on the Grand Junction Retail Park which closes in March 2020.
The Duchy of Lancaster’s Crewe estate extends to 1,402 hectares to the east of the town centre and is centred on the historic properties of Crewe Hall and Crewe Hall Farm where the Duchy has created a thriving office location in converted agricultural buildings. It also includes farms and residential properties in villages such as Weston and Crewe Green.
The Duchy of Lancaster has today published its financial results for the year ended 31st March 2019.
During the year:
• Net surplus increased by 7.6 % to £21.7m
• Net asset value increased by 2.8% to £548.6m.
Nathan Thompson, CEO and Clerk of the Duchy Council, said: “We continue to develop a robust and sustainable business aimed at delivering attractive long-term returns while protecting the capital value of the Duchy inheritance. A focus on quality and sustainability supported by our decision to bring the management of our Surveys in house has served us well in the year, further improving our tenant relationships, reducing our voids and increasing our overall efficiency.
“Over the last 12 months the Duchy purchased £2.3m of land and property and invested £6.8m in repairs and improvements. Our strategic land business is a growing area of focus as we seek to respond to urgent housing need across the country.
“Once again I would like to offer my personal thanks to our tenants and to all members of the Duchy team for helping to make this another positive year of growth.”
The Duchy of Lancaster is a historic portfolio of land and assets held in trust for the reigning Sovereign. It provides the Monarch with a source of income that is independent of Government and the public purse. The Duchy is self-financing and does not receive any public funds in connection with its activities.
To view/download a copy of the Annual Report and Accounts for the year ended 31st March 2019, please visit the Financial Reporting page on our website (www.duchyoflancaster.co.uk).