Warwick Castle bosses are breathing a sigh of relief after plans to build wooden lodges in its grounds have been approved by Warwick District Council’s planning committee, despite rejecting a more substantial plan by the castle last year.
The plans include 16 permanent semi-detached lodges in the Grade I-listed Foxes Study site which will provide visitors with more places to stay on top of the summer glamping tents already in place.
Accommodation is fundamental to the viability of the castle in the face of competition, and I don’t want to run a castle with decreasing visitor numbers.Geoff Spooner, Castle Manager
Originally, 20 lodges were planned, along with five treehouses and 41 year-round glamping tents, but after these were rejected a revised application was submitted.
Speaking on behalf of Warwick Town Council, Moira-Ann Grainger (Con, Woodloes), said: “It is a bizarre and naive assumption that Warwick Castle does not bring any benefit to the town.
“It’s the castle that makes Warwick a destination.
“They have taken on board our original objections.”
Castle Manager, Geoff Spooner, warned that visitors to the county could be tempted elsewhere if the plans were rejected and referred to the lack of beds in the town after the imminent conversion of the Lord Leycester Hotel into flats.
He said: “Accommodation is fundamental to the viability of the castle in the face of competition, and I don’t want to run a castle with decreasing visitor numbers.
“Let’s not allow Warwick’s loss to become Stratford’s gain.”
However, chairman of the Warwick Society James Mackay was sceptical of the castle’s economic benefits.
He said: “The lodges would not create an economic miracle, they would just be one more component of a town economy which has many other strengths.”
Another objector, Veronica Hyland, said: “This is the most important decision for a council to have to deal with.
“The plans would result in a total change of character.”
Cllr John Cooke (Con, St John’s), the chairman of the planning committee, explained how his visit to the site convinced him that the plans were viable.
He said: “My gut instinct told me it was wrong - I was concerned by the damage that could be done.
“It wasn’t until the site visit that I thought it wouldn’t make a tremendous difference.”
Cllr Margaret Knight (Lab, Clarendon) voiced concern, and said: “I passionately believe this would be a downward step.”
Eventually, the committee approved the plans by eight votes to three.
In a statement after the plans were approved, Mr Spooner said: “We are delighted that the planning committee supported our significantly reduced and revised application.”
The lodges are expected to open in 2016.