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Newark and Sherwood District Council planning committee debate major Newark Castle ‘Gatehouse project’ plans and economic and social benefits





A major tourism project has been given the go-ahead, with the potential to transform the social and economic landscape of the town.

Newark and Sherwood District Council’s planning committee met to discuss their own plans for the Newark Castle ‘Gatehouse Project’ — which would see the grade-one listed, scheduled monument enhanced as a tourist attraction.

Under the plans, the original Romanesque gatehouse would be reinstated as the main entrance to the 11th century castle, with the addition of a stepped ramp in the style of a moat bridge, under which a multi-use space would be built, surrounded by accessible pathways, eco-conscious landscaping and improvements to the existing Victorian gardens.

Castle Gatehouse landscaping design concept. Credit: Newark and Sherwood District Council
Castle Gatehouse landscaping design concept. Credit: Newark and Sherwood District Council

A first and second floor will be installed within the walls of the main tower, which will be used as a museum and galleries showcasing the castle’s history with interactive displays and objects.

A tower-top viewing platform will also be built, offering views across Newark.

The project is funded by £3m from the government’s Towns Fund initiative, and it is hoped that a bid for a further £1.3m through the National Lottery Heritage Fund will also be successful.

Supported by Historic England, the council state that the aim of the project is to enhance the existing building, and it is predicted that once works are completed the castle will attract roughly 22,000 visitors a year.

The Castle Gatehouse as it stands now. Credit: Newark and Sherwood District Council
The Castle Gatehouse as it stands now. Credit: Newark and Sherwood District Council

Despite the benefit to tourism laid out by planning officers, committee members were torn over aspects of the scheme.

Johno Lee, said: “My concern is these modern elements go too far. They’re not in keeping with the building what so ever.

“If anybody but us brought this forward, I don’t think this application would be approved.

“I’m happy with the castle as it is. We need to protect this historic building.

“In my opinion, all this is being done to increase tourism and make money.

“But do we actually want to see more people in Newark? Until we’ve resolved the infrastructure problems, we shouldn’t be bringing any extra people into the town.”

Penny Rainbow disagreed, saying: “It is going to make this a more desirable attraction. It is going to be new, exciting and accessible for all.

“We can’t shut the town off to tourists — tourists help keep the town vibrant and we need that in Newark.

“Small independent shops depend on tourism. I think the contrast of old and new works.”

Castle Gatehouse landscaping design concept. Credit: Newark and Sherwood District Council
Castle Gatehouse landscaping design concept. Credit: Newark and Sherwood District Council

Linda Dales, said: “We only have one castle — it’s the gateway to our town and it should be accessible.

“We need to support our local economy, we have empty shops and we need to create demand.

“It’s not just about opening up access to the castle, it’s about access to the rest of our beautiful town and putting us on the map.”

As well as being a councillor, David Moore owns a business in Newark. He said: “Something like this is an absolute must for the town.

“It brings people back and keeps people investing in the town.

“I trust the architects and specialists at Historic England — they believe it’s the right thing for the castle.”

Tim Wildgust agreed, saying the plans were an opportunity to give the town a focal point and change Newark for the better.

Other councillors were still not sold on the benefits, with Sue Saddington believing that the proposed modern additions would spoil the look of the medieval castle and Peter Harris saying they were “intrusive and unnecessary.”

In response, Matthew Spoors, said: “All buildings change over time. Unless we want to live in ‘Disney-on-Trent’, we have to adapt.

“I don’t think future generations will thank us for presiding over a pile of rubble.”

Newark Castle submitted by Advertiser reader Tony Parker.
Newark Castle submitted by Advertiser reader Tony Parker.

There was also concern over the loss of a number of trees under the plans, which would be cleared in order to carry out engineering work and make the layout more accessible.

Emma Oldham, as portfolio holder for biodiversity and environmental services, clarified that negotiations had taken place about tree loss and that the majority of the trees being removed were of low quality.

Additionally, the loss would be offset with the planting of trees elsewhere, with Riverside Park directly opposite the castle given as a proposed location.

It was however requested that an amendment be made, changing the length of time that the applicant is obligated to care for these new trees from five years to 15 years.

The plans were recommended for approval with the proposed tree care amendment.

Committee members voted in favour of approval, 11 votes for, to three against, with one abstention.



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