Castle must adapt to stay thriving

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I couldn’t help but feel the title of last week’s reader’s letter “the battle to save our heritage” was more than a little ironic, not least since entering private ownership £26 million has been invested specifically in restoring Warwick Castle to its present condition.

It seems for some it is easy to forget the serious state of disrepair that the castle was sold in. Thirty six years later restoration and investment continues at pace, something we believe only Merlin Entertainments could or would do.

Today, Warwick not only has a fantastic tourist attraction to be proud of thanks to this work, but most importantly, a magnificent castle with a great reputation of making history accessible to children, visited regularly by local schools, families and special interest adult groups; as well as providing every one of our millions of visitors over the years with a little more knowledge of the region’s long history. None of which would be possible without the castle being commercially successful in a very competitive market. This is something we are proud of and think should be encouraged, and certainly not anything we feel the need to apologise for.

I also feel it is very important to dispel some of the inaccuracies and frankly nonsense being reported regarding accommodation proposals at the castle. In short:

l Our plans have been very carefully considered in line with third party expert advice.

l No aged or veteran trees are being removed. Six mature trees in poor condition are to be removed as part of woodland management that will be implemented regardless of the planning outcome – two of these are actually dead.

l English Heritage has no objection to the proposal.

l The number of additional rooms being proposed will be a maximum of 45 (almost identical to the number of rooms that the town will lose if the Lord Leycester Hotel is converted to flats as proposed)

l The castle’s unique accommodation does not compete with existing town bedstock, on the contrary, the castle contributes £32 million to the regional economy, and drives incremental business of all kinds, including overnight stays. This year alone, 35 per cent of guests staying at the castle dined in Warwick town – this is worth around £75,000 to local restaurants and I thank all those local businesses who recognise this and have written letters of support for this proposal.

l Nearly all of our fantastic staff live locally. We create permanent and seasonal jobs and our accommodation plans will create more.

l The scheme has been designed specifically not to impact neighbouring properties either in terms of noise or lighting and again I thank those neighbours who have written in support of the proposal. Also worth noting is that not one complaint was received regarding our glamping operation this year.

Since the first Anglo Saxon burgh was established on the site where this magnificent castle now stands, significant changes and adaptation have occurred to its appearance in nearly every century of its 1,100 year history - the castle has always been contemporary with its time, surely part of the reason it has endured for so long.

We want the castle to be here in 1,100 years time. This will only be achieved if it is relevant and enjoyed by many, and future success not adversely influenced by the very small minority in Warwick who contribute nothing to its continuation and restoration, but who it seems resent those who do. So, as custodians of the castle, a role we take very seriously, we will continue to focus on projects, like this one, that will continue the castle’s success while at all times remain in keeping with its historic past.

Geoff Spooner, General Manager, Warwick Castle