Tourism champions say plans to revitalise Lancaster Castle as a prison-themed museum and four-star boutique hotel could be a game-changer for Lancaster, Morecambe and the entire district.
The city’s most famous landmark could become a modern ‘urban quarter’ housing a museum, a 75-room luxury hotel with restaurant, spa and gym, artists’ studios and workshops, public arts d¶isplays, outdoor performances, international conferences and festivals.
The museum would house exhibitions of 1,000 years of Britain’s judicial and penal history, and incorporate many of the castle prison’s original features.
Tourism heads have united in praise for the blueprint, saying it would be a massive draw for visitors to the area.
“It’s breathtaking...the greatest thing to ever happen to the Lancaster district,” said Councillor Ron Sands, tourism member on Lancaster City Council.
“It will change the whole landscape of this area, including Morecambe.
“Where else in England can you stay by the seaside and then visit this kind of experience?”
Suzi Bunting, chair of Bay Tourism Association, said: “I’m absolutely delighted.
“I personally feel a hotel would make it unique. There is a need for extra bed spaces in Lancaster city centre.
“The international interest in the museum would bring overnight stays from all over the world.”
The plans, revealed after a six-month study by heritage experts Malcolm Reading Consultants, will go on display to the public at Lancaster Castle from October 29 to November 2.
Paul Clarke, CEO at castle owners the Duchy of Lancaster, said: “We have reached an exciting phase in the future of Lancaster Castle and are really looking forward to sharing our ideas with the local community.
“We still have a long way to go in terms of finalising the plans to ensure that the vision is financially viable and deliverable, but this initial proposal is a major step forward.
“We are confident that our ideas would enable Lancaster Castle to become a powerful new tourist attraction that would significantly boost the local economy, create jobs and transform the use of the city centre for residents and visitors.”
The Duchy decided to look at new uses for the Grade I listed castle after controversially closing its prison in March 2011, saying it was outdated and too expensive to keep running.
If all goes to plan, work could begin on the complex in 2014 with a view to opening in 2017.