Furious residents and community leaders have blasted plans to build an 80-room hotel in Warwick Castle - saying it will turn the historic site into a “tacky Disneyland”.
Warwick District Council is expecting to be asked to consider plans for the hotel as part of a “masterplan” to develop the castle over the next five to ten years.
Merlin Entertainments, which owns the castle built by William the Conqueror in 1068, have held discussions with the local council and heritage groups over their expansion plans.
There are also proposals to renovate rooms in the 39 metre-tall Guy’s Tower into a number of luxury bedroom suites for guests.
If approved, the hotel would be built next to the Knights Village, whih is 28 luxury medieval-style lodges built using traditional timber frames.
A decision is expected to be made on the hotel plans, also which include a number of new buildings and opening up more areas of public to the castle, early next year.
Briefings have already been given to key heritage organisations, such as the Warwick Society and the Warwickshire Gardens Trust, and Warwick Town Council.
Chairman of the Warwick Society, James Mackay, said: “The castle is certainly considering development of the site.
“In the view of Warwick Society, it would have to be done very carefully indeed if not to badly damage the character of a very important listed building, an ancient monument and the grounds of it as well.
“There is a severe risk that what would be proposed will destroy what has taken centuries to build and what is increasingly, an ‘entertainment park’ - they don’t like being called a ‘theme park’ - rather than the castle and its parkland of centuries ago.”
Residents living near the castle have expressed outrage at the masterplan, accusing bosses of ruining the castle.
IT worker John Edwards, 45, said: “Once again Merlin are trying to make even more money out of Warwick Castle.
“They might be playing it down saying it’s all a wish-list but history tells us they are aggressive in their determination to develop the castle.
“We’ve seen it with the glamping pods and the Knight’s Village but the hotel plan is a step to far.
“What they want to do is turn Warwick Castle into a tacky Disneyland and building a hotel in the grounds is the first step.
“What on earth will they think of next? A casino and rollercoaster?”
Local historian Angela Woodward, 60, said: “What Merlin are very good at is getting people through the doors of Warwick Castle and much of what they have done has been positive.
“The regular trebuchet launches and summer jousting contests have, in my view, added to the historical relevance of the castle and enjoyment for visitors.
“I always worried how these large projects would be paid for and now it appears that we have our answer - a hotel.
“Up to 80 rooms means at least 160 maybe 200 more people inside the castle.
“Packing more and more people into the castle may not actually be the best thing. More people means more chances of artefacts being damaged.
“The building of a hotel so close to the main buildings could damage their foundations as well as potentially offending the integrity of the castle itself.”
The hotel is one of a series of projects in Merlin’s masterplan, which sets out how they want the castle to develop over the next decade.
Other ideas include a new glass-fronted cafe/restaurant on what is known as the Long Walk, near to where the falconry displays are held.
Bosses also want to build a larger gift shop outside the stables entrance of the castle and rent out the porter’s lodges to guests.
Nick Blofeld, of Merlin Entertainments, said: “The hotel is the more contentious part of the masterplan, but everything we’ve put in there are aims and some of them might not happen.
“We’ve put 60 to 80 beds in there.
“We’re thinking that bay nine and ten of the car park are an ideal location because it is sunken and could link in with the facilities at the Knights Village.
“But we will look at the idea in more detail and see if the numbers stack up, and will make a decision within the next 12 months as to whether we progress with it.
“Merlin want their sites to be resorts, they make no secret about that, and we would like to add at least 40 bedrooms here.
“This masterplans is an aspiration and is at a very early stage, but I’d rather be honest now and say this is what we want to do.”
A public consultation on the hotel plans will take place next month.
A spokesperson from Warwick District Council said: “The preparation of a masterplan for Warwick Castle is at an early stage.
“Warwick District Council Officers are in preliminary discussions with the castle about their initial suggestions.”