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Castle project could be a crowning glory

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AMBITIOUS plans for a makeover of Newark Castle to help bolster tourism is to be discussed by councillors tonight.

Restoration of the ancient gatehouse, an impressive new moat bridge entrance with learning centre beneath and new rooms in the north west tower are the centrepiece of the proposals.

Newark and Sherwood District Council policy and finance committee will discuss the scheme tonight.

Newark Castle Gate House (4282925)
Newark Castle Gate House (4282925)

If approved by councillors, detailed designs will be drawn up in preparation for a planned submission to the Heritage Lottery Fund in June of next year.

“These plans for the castle are bold and impressive and if brought to reality, will have the potential to bring a massive boost to the economy and would be the crowning glory to tourism in Newark and Sherwood," said Mr Keith Girling, chairman of the council’s economic development committee.

“We already know the town is a great place to visit, whether for leisure or business, but this will put it on another level in terms of attracting tourists and boosting trade for our shops, restaurants and overnight accommodation and along with that, spin-offs for other services.

“The castle is pivotal in that not only is it the gateway to the other major features of the town – the Town Hall, Market Square and National Civil War Centre ­— it is a stand-out attraction in drawing more tourism to the district of Newark and Sherwood.”

The castle, steeped in a rich and colourful history and described as having the most complete example of a Romanesque gatehouse in England, has been pinpointed as the gateway to the town’s other landmark heritage attractions, the Town Hall and Market Square and National Civil War Centre.

The masterplan supports the Newark Destination Management Plan (DMP), approved earlier this year, which has targeted a significant increase in tourist numbers with major new benefits to the district’s economy.

The DMP plans to grow the economic impact of visitors within Newark by £5m per annum over five years and the castle plans alone would bring in an expected £1.3m per annum of that.

A priority is to convert more day-trippers into overnight visitors who spend more locally, meaning more trade for businesses.

Joint ticketing offers for visitors and local people, to include the different town attractions, are also being explored.

The masterplan, set out by Newark and Sherwood District Council and subject to funding approval by the Heritage Lottery Fund, go much further than an original scheme to enhance the visitor offer of the gatehouse, renowned for its links to King John and three sieges during the British Civil Wars.

If approved by councillors, developed designs of the master plan will now be drawn up which include:

• New moat bridge. This would be the ‘showcase’ castle entrance, linking the gatehouse with Beast Market Hill and capturing visitor flow from the nearby rail and road links.

Historically authentic and visually attractive, it would serve to draw in visitors and create passing interest.

There would also be a new entrance gate, ramped pathway and new landscaping.

AN ARTIST’S impression of how the plans for Newark Castle could look if councillors give the go-ahead to the ambitious project, which is due to be discussed tonight. (4282923)
AN ARTIST’S impression of how the plans for Newark Castle could look if councillors give the go-ahead to the ambitious project, which is due to be discussed tonight. (4282923)

• Restoration of the gatehouse. The structure has degraded over the centuries but would have a new roof, floors and windows as set out in the original plans to restore the structure. The first floor timber floor would be reinstated and there would be a structure for a second floor.

There would be a balcony gallery to experience the audience chamber below and an extended viewing area on top of the gatehouse, where visitors can enjoy impressive aerial views of the castle, wider town, the ‘pepper pot’ towers of Southwell Minster and other district landmarks.

• Learning and event space. Cut into the bank beneath the new moat bridge this modern underground facility would host activities and attractions in conjunction with the National Civil War Centre on Appletongate.

• New pay pavilion. Located between the north-west tower and the gatehouse, this would house the ticket office and shop and provide the access point to the gatehouse interior and improve access to the dungeons.

• New rooms in the north west tower. The groundfloor room, which would not be connected to the upper floors in line with its original structural design, would tell the story of the history of the castle in precis and explain what visitors can experience within the attraction.

Meanwhile, an additional room would be created in the north west tower by putting in new floors in line with how the castle was originally constructed.

• New exhibitions and interpretation displays. To be included within the two rooms and dungeon in the south west tower and under croft and these would be available for visitors on a guided tour basis to link the gatehouse with the wider experience that is available at the castle.

Archaeologists are to investigate the ground conditions and archaeology around the proposed site for the moat bridge before detailed designs are drawn up.

The proposals received unanimous backing from members of the district council’s economic development committee last week as an exempt item.

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