Plans for a 600-space overspill car park at Elvaston Castle as part of £35 million regeneration plans have been scrapped. Derbyshire County Council has made changes to its own application and provided more information, at the strong request of its own planning officials, after objections and concerns from core experts and campaigners.
It filed its plans for the first phase of the regeneration a year ago but the scheme is still being discussed. In new documents filed with the application, after a formal demand for more information from its own officials, the council says while the planned new 623-space car park remains, the planned 600-space overspill will be scrapped.
These documents also detail that there are “no firm proposals” for either holiday lodges in the historic grounds or for the relocation of the current showground – an issue which had been heavily opposed and has been previously deferred. The plan for holiday lodges and holiday lets, including in the castle itself, is something that consultants continue to support, despite travel abroad edging back towards pre-pandemic levels and the cost of living crisis hitting budgets.
Meanwhile, a planned adventure play area, close to the planned 150-cover cafe, has been bumped out of this application and will form a separate application at a later date. Consultants detail that they had advised of a £1 million investment in the adventure play area, but this has been sent back to the drawing board for further market analysis and talks with potential investors, including the forecasted level of money consumers will pay for leisure activities.
The county council and the charity Elvaston Castle and Gardens Trust have reaffirmed their commitment to restore and reopen the centrepiece of the estate – the castle itself – though they say other changes to the wider master plan will be made in light of the pandemic and economic situation. New information provided on behalf of the two organisations details that the proposed overall improvements to the estate would see annual visitor numbers surge from 325,000 a year to 530,000, consultants have estimated.
They have also sought to defend the controversial planned new access route, from the B5010, close to the A6 Thulston Roundabout, which has been opposed by campaigners and experts. A new document says alternatives, including entry via Bedford Drive, would lead to overloading busy junctions in Borrowash and continue to route motorists through Elvaston and Thulston.
It says the new route “would allow safe and convenient access from the strategic road network, catering for the increased visitor numbers needed to make Elvaston Castle economically sustainable over the long term”. The Bedford Road alternative and other routes would require travelling through the registered park and garden, the document says, “which in our view would be more harmful than the current proposal”.
The proposed cafe can be seen from the castle but the council says the harm would be “minimal”
(Image: Landscape Architecture & Design)
In 2018, the council had looked to repurpose the existing car park as a caravan site, once the new car park is built, but this no longer appears to be the plan. This area, from the 1960s up until early 2012, had previously served as a caravan site.
The council had gone out to tender, while in the middle of consulting on the Elvaston regeneration, saying the site would be of an optimal size for organisations if the car park was vacated and would be leased for £7,000 a year for 25 years. However, a new document says: “The existing car park will be closed to day-to-day public parking. However, it will be used for coach parking and waste management; beyond this, there are no firm proposals for future use at this stage.”
Alongside this, the council and the castle and gardens trust have sought to defend the planned new car park site, which would be double the capacity of the current one and on the opposite side of the castle, with the claim that many visitors do not visit the historic centre because it is too far to walk, despite outside bodies like the Gardens Trust disagreeing. Officials write: “Owing to the present position of the main visitor entrance and car park, remote from the core buildings and on the opposite side of the lake, many visitors to Elvaston do not interact with the core buildings and gardens.
“This is a missed opportunity to reveal the country’s heritage, and to provide revenue-generating uses in the buildings which would facilitate their repair and sustain their future maintenance.” The new car park would be monitored by automatic number plate recognition cameras which register vehicles on entry.
New documents from consultants detail that the National Trust had advised the two organisations back in 2013 that they would recommend moving the car park to the now-proposed spot. This document also says the organisations could stand to make £467,222 a year from car parking fees on the new double-size site, up from £296,111 – at current rates – with “scope to introduce more tiers of parking charges and increase parking costs”.
The cafe would sit next to an adventure play area, which is now going to be developed at a later stage
(Image: Landscape Architecture & Design)
A separate document also discusses the proposed new modern cafe structure which forms part of the first phase, with Historic England raising concerns about its impact. As a result, the height of the cafe building has been lowered, with officials on behalf of the council and trust saying there would be a “minimal” impact on the view of the estate from the upper floors of the castle.
This also details that the size of the cafe is essential to its financial viability and overall success, with an estate aiming to cater to more than 500,000 annual visitors, needing a cafe able to provide space for 140-193 people – striking the balance at 150 covers. It writes: “A visit to a café is key to the visitor experience; providing a café of insufficient capacity could be detrimental to the whole development. Anticipated visitor numbers are high.
“Unlike National Trust and English Heritage properties, Elvaston will remain free to enter and is situated close to major population centres.” It says the cafe must be moved out of the main castle complex in order to sustain the historic complex in the long term.
The document details: “Our market appraisal analysis has indicated that for the castle to be sustainable as a standalone events space, the entirety of the ground floor needs to be reused. Therefore, it is not possible to keep the café in the castle and achieve the council’s future reuse aspirations for the castle which are critical to its longer-term financial sustainability.
“Removing the café will unlock the potential of the castle to be used as an events venue by allowing circulation between key rooms without needing to restrict access by virtue of part of the building being used as a café. This will also make public tours easier to facilitate.
“The applicants also need an enhanced café offer and feel the castle would be too sensitive to withstand an expansion of the current facility, particularly as this would involve additional kitchen and extraction equipment which can be damaging to historic buildings.
Numerous historic listed buildings in the ground would be converted and reused, while some will return to their original purposes, through the wider plans in phase one, including a blacksmiths, plant and flower sales, offices, ice cream parlour and coffee shop, exhibition space, tea room and shops. The new document details: “I therefore urge you to give due weight to the substantial heritage benefits to be delivered from the restoration, re-use and improved public access and interpretation of these estate buildings in and of themselves.”
Catering on-site would bring in £174,575 a year, consultants forecast, with a further £364,583 from plant and flower sales. There remains contention between experts, campaigners, residents and the council over the impact on wildlife habitats and tree loss.
Derbyshire Wildlife Trust had said 6.9 per cent of the estate’s formal “local wildlife site” will be lost through the plans, along with 12 mature oak trees for the roundabout and road scheme. Further mature trees would also be cut down. It said 2.5 acres of wildlife habitats would be lost, along with more than 200 metres of hedges.
A new report details the tree loss from Rookery Wood, close to the planned new access, which lists 40 trees would be cut down, with three said to be dead and three in “declining health”. A further study shows five trees could be protected and an additional five are listed as “seek to protect”.
A report on behalf of the county council and castle and gardens trust says: “It is our view that the loss of these trees, which is a small percentage of the woodland overall and of the thousands of trees in the estate generally, whilst regrettable, will be outweighed by the wider environmental, social and economic benefits of the scheme overall.” It says four square metres of trees will be replanted for every one square metre chopped down and it intends to have “root protection areas” for veteran trees near to planned development.
Consultation on the first phase of the Elvaston master plan closes on May 12, with residents able to comment on the application by searching for planning application CD9/0222/34 here: https://planning.derbyshire.gov.uk/Planning/Display/CD9/0222/34.
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