Gwrych Castle, Abergele, North Wales

Council Must Step In



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Aug 27th 2003

Dave Jones ~ Abergele Visitor

CALLS have been made for a county council to buy a derelict Victorian castle to save it from ruin. Clwyd West MP Gareth Thomas believes Conwy County Borough Council should take the lead and purchase Gwrych Castle in Abergele.

At a meeting at the castle on Friday, Mr Thomas argued putting the 19th century building into public hands would qualify it for grants to turn it into a tourist attraction.The Labour MP made his comments during a meeting with Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust to discuss the crumbling monument's future.He now plans to meet Conwy's chief executive Derek Barker in a bid to push the council to take on the prominent landmark.

"People have been ready with warm words but I want Conwy to get off their backsides and exercise their right to bring this important building into public ownership," said Mr Thomas. "Only then will it qualify for grants. Cadw, the Heritage Lottery Fund and other parties would be prepared in principle to assist."

However, Conwy rejected the idea of compulsorily buying the property owned by American businessman Nick Tavaglione. "A Compulsory Purchase Order would not be appropriate while there is commercial interest in the castle," said a council spokesperson. " We understand the owner has been approached by developers."

Millionaire Mr Tavaglione originally planned to create an operatic centre at the castle when he bought it in 1989, but the plan soon fell through.

The US-based businessman has had little to do with the castle for years despite constant attempts from campaigners to pin him down for discussions.

Inrecent years the castle has been constanly targeted by vandals.Several fires have been started in the building and the brickwork damaged. Last month all the floors in the main part fell through to ground level. But despite the structural problems at the castle, interest in it has increased in recent months.

In January, Chester-based businessman Michael McMullen, who restored Charleville Castle in Ireland and turned it into a tourist attraction, expressed an interestin Gwrych. And in May there were calls by community leaders and local business people to develop a North Wales base for the Welsh Assembly at the Abergele castle.

©Mark Baker 2003