Study nears completion

An £8m scheme to breathe new life into Cardigan Castle is almost on the starting blocks.

The scheme - which could see work start on the site by 2010 - includes: A heritage centre in the cottages; Welsh language and learning in the main house; A restaurant in the re-built conservatory; Fully restored gardens open to the public; Self catering holiday accommodation overseen by the castle trust in the site's peripheral buildings.

The 10-month feasibility study carried out by Cadwgan Building Preservation Trust is nearing completion and Cardigan town councillors were given a preview of the plans at their meeting on Tuesday.

But Cadwgan chair, Jann Tucker, stressed that the plan was still in its formative stages.

"Nothing is set in stone - we are still in discussions with Ceredigion, the castle's owner," she said.

Niall Phillips, the Bristol-based architect who has been in charge of the feasibility study, told councillors: "The objectives of the trust are to find a new use for the castle, to conserve the fabric of the castle, maximise access for economic and community benefit.

"It has to be a use that is appropriate for the town and play a key role in the regeneration of south Ceredigion."

Mr Phillips was confident that all of the £8m capital required could be raised through various grant sources including the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Welsh Assembly and European money as well as up to £50,000 through a public appeal.

But Ceredigion - and the town council - would be expected to help out if the yearly costs of running the site fell short.

Ceredigion would be expected to foot the insurance bills and maintain the walls - at a cost of around £70,000 a year.

"If the project hasn't got county council support, then the funders aren't going to give it a second look," said Mr Phillips.

He added that the town council would also be expected to contribute in some way.

"We must be able to demonstrate to the Heritage Lottery Fund that the project is going to succeed and it is a partnership between the county council, the town council and Cadwgan."

But he added that if the castle proved to be a success it might even make a small profit.

"You also have to look at the economic spin offs to the area that such a major project would bring," he said.

A tentative timetable sees a lottery bid being made early next year, with work starting in 2010 - including the removal of the stanchions - with the grand opening in summer 2012.

Mr Phillips stressed that at the moment all was needed was the town council's support for the project in principal.

"Any support from the town council sends a powerful message," he said.

Mayor Cllr Melfydd George praised the study and added: "The town council has always given its committment to the castle."

Councillors agreed to call a special meeting to go through the draft study in full.

A special public meeting on the study will be held later in the year.

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