District Council’s ambitious plans to restore Newark Castle take another huge leap forward

Posted on: Thursday, January 20, 2022

Newark and Sherwood District Council has made another huge leap forward this week towards realising ambitious plans to develop Newark Castle into an exciting visitor attraction. An application for planning permission has been submitted which, if approved, will allow work to continue on the Castle Gatehouse Project as planned. Securing planning permission is also an important step towards finalising the project’s business case to be submitted to central government to release the £2.6m Towns Fund grant allocation for this fantastic project.

Plans to sensitively transform the Gatehouse into an immersive visitor experience have been an ongoing project with almost a decade of work contributing to the exciting but sympathetic vision. It’s hoped that visitors will be able to enjoy a stunningly restored Gatehouse filled with fascinating interpretation about the 900 year story of this much-loved landmark. Plans also include a new entrance on Beastmarket Hill, an accessible entrance pavilion, a visitor reception in the grounds and a separate facility beneath the Gatehouse Bridge which will host educational outreach activities and events and act as a community hub.

The Castle Gatehouse project is part of a series of aspirational projects designed to regenerate the town, overseen by Newark Towns Fund Board. In March 2021, the Board, comprising of a range of public and private businesses and individuals, was successful in its bid for £25 million from the Government’s Towns Fund. Some projects have completed, others have commenced, with the remainder in the process of concluding business cases to take proposals forward.

Councillor David Lloyd, Leader of Newark and Sherwood District Council and Co-Chair of Newark Towns Fund Board, said: “Newark is synonymous with its Castle; it’s important to both the District Council and Newark Towns Fund Board that we work collaboratively to restore and enhance what is arguably one of the town’s most beautiful and well known treasures.  This project is an opportunity to make sure Newark Castle can be enjoyed for many more generations to come as well as boosting both our visitor numbers and our pride in the area we call home. So many District Council officers have worked on this project over the years and I’m delighted that we seem to be edging towards the fruition of our dreams for it.”

Proposed work on the fabric of the building will involve making essential stonework repairs and adding a roof and windows to the Gatehouse.  A moat bridge leading into an attractive and welcoming entrance will create a new and more prominent means of access directly into the Castle site and with new publicly accessible spaces in the Northwest and Gatehouse towers, the Castle is set to become a venue for interactive displays, exhibitions and events.  It is hoped that the Castle will be transformed into a hub of creativity, forging new ways of learning about the past alongside events, workshops and activities.  An educational offer means that schools and volunteers too will have opportunities to get involved.

Councillor Lloyd continues, “The Castle team are already brimming with excitement for the potential this project brings, from allowing greater engagement with schools to community events and more. Most importantly, it will allow more people to uncover the true story of this amazing building whether they’re local residents who pass it every day without understanding its significance or visitors from across the country and even further afield, who’ll be able to spread its tales far and wide.” 

For many local people, the Castle and its grounds represent much that is good about Newark.  It is an unchanging presence with a rich and fabled past and the building itself has been visited by successive monarchs and withstood three sieges during the Civil War.  This project is the result of many years of consultation and research to find ways in which it can be better conserved, sympathetically restored and managed for the people of Newark.  The Castle’s grounds, a much loved and treasured green space in the centre of town, will continue to remain free to access even after the work has been completed.  It is hoped that the Castle Gatehouse will encourage more visitors to the town which in turn will also support local retailers and hospitality providers.

“As a transformed, highly visible gateway to our town and visitor attraction, the Castle project has the potential to bring significant numbers of new visitors to the town and will substantially enhance the town centre for the benefit of businesses, visitors and residents alike.  The Castle Gatehouse project will be a specialist undertaking of high quality that embodies sustainable regeneration and makes the most of the skills and commitment of local people and organisations working in partnership. It will be an immense source of pride for the town to know that a building held in such high regard is being caringly restored and given new life,” Councillor Lloyd concludes.

Newark was one of 101 places invited by the Government to develop Town Deal proposals to deliver long-term economic recovery, clean growth, jobs and prosperity as part of the £3.6 billion Towns Fund. Other projects which the Newark Towns Fund Board have progressed so far include the YMCA Community and Activity Village, the International Air and Space Training Institute and the Newark Construction College Centre of Excellence.  The final project is still subject to a grant allocation from the Heritage Lottery Fund.