Plans for new road, car park and Elvaston Castle cafe criticized by experts
A new road, roundabout, car park and cafe at Elvaston Castle risk harming the wildlife and heritage of the site, with claims the development could be ‘illegal’. The first £35million tranche of plans for a major redevelopment of the beauty spot, on the outskirts of Derby, has been submitted and the public and consulted experts have given their input on the proposals.
Derbyshire County Council, backed by the charity Elvaston Castle and Gardens Trust, which will manage the site, said the regeneration program would “unlock its full potential”. They say the car park and connecting road will help the estate “achieve financial viability” and ultimately fund the significant amount of repairs that need to be carried out on the grounds and on the castle itself.
It comes after years of abandoned development plans for the site and a repair bill that continues to mount. In response, heritage experts Historic England raised concerns about the current plans and said they would cause damage in their current form.
He believes the scale and look of the planned new cafe at the historic site would be “too assertive” and “visually intrusive” and detract from views of the castle and court buildings. Historic England calls the new access road to the site, near Thulston roundabout, a ‘major new intervention’ and believes it would damage the integrity of the estate’s protected landscape – including the loss of trees mature.
He says: “Overall, the proposals would conserve, enhance and provide opportunities for greater appreciation of the historic buildings and designed landscape at Elvaston Castle.” However, the organization says the access road would impact the “tranquility” of the estate and the plan is based entirely on the perceived benefits of bringing visitors to the site from a different angle closer to the castle.
Meanwhile, the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust says 6.9 per cent of the estate’s official ‘local wildlife site’ will be lost to the plans, along with 12 mature oak trees for the roundabout and road project. Other mature trees would also be felled. It says 2.5 acres of wildlife habitat would be lost, along with over 200 meters of hedgerows.
The organization says the new parking plans would lead to increased noise and disruption from vehicle movement, lights and chemical pollution. It says a Natural England license will be required before work can begin due to the presence of protected great crested newts and that widespread mitigation measures will be required.
Derbyshire Police said there had been ‘sporadic’ incidents of theft, damage and nuisance in the existing car park and that measures to address this should be rolled out in the proposed new car park. This should include lighting and CCTV cameras, depending on the force.
It also says the changes and the goal of increasing traffic to the site “clearly will potentially have a much greater impact on police resources.” The Gardens Trust says it fully supports the regeneration and restoration plans and, although it has issues with the new cafe building, accepts its “need”.
However, he says he is “disturbed” by the council’s statements about the plans’ heritage impact and that the organization was not more involved. The trust also says: ‘The repositioning of the car park is the centerpiece of the proposals and we undoubtedly do not accept that visitors do not wish to walk a little further to reach the central buildings of Elvaston. Indeed, even now the central area is clearly the destination of the honeypot, and that won’t change when the buildings are restored.
“We appreciate the problems with compaction around trees when visitors enter the site from the current car park, but this is arguably more of a long-term inaction than an insurmountable problem. The route to the existing car park via Thulston, Elvaston and Borrowash is already a rat race for motorists during rush hour and that will not change, even if traffic to Elvaston Country Park is largely taken out of the equation .
A letter written by Richard Buxton Solicitors has been submitted to County Council on behalf of Elvaston Parish Council, which vigorously opposes the plans. It says: “The application documents legally fail to address the favorable development as proposed to ensure the viability of the asset, and the wider environmental impacts of the project. Approving the application as requested would be illegal.
He continues: “The aim of the parish council is to ensure a sustainable future for the castle and estate of Elvaston, enabling the restoration of listed heritage assets which, by the county council’s own admission, have not invested significantly in maintaining buildings in good condition. for many years’. The Parish Council strongly believes that the approach currently being taken by the County Council will harm, rather than enhance, these important heritage, environmental and community assets.
Weston-on-Trent Parish Council wrote of their ‘strong objection’ to the scheme, saying: ‘This is the wrong scheme at the wrong time. Removing green spaces and mature trees to build 1.5 km of new road, plus a roundabout and a new car park is not the right solution when we are trying to reduce CO2 emissions and reduce the impact of the global warming. Elvaston Castle is the last major open public space in this part of South Derbyshire and is widely used by residents of the parish of Weston.
“This wanton destruction of forests, wildlife habitats, the loss of green space and green belts as well as prime agricultural land, must be rethought at a time when these are more important than ever.” Dozens of objection letters have also been submitted by residents opposing the plans.
An objecting resident wrote: “’They say it’s heaven – set up a parking lot’. I have enjoyed visiting Elvaston Castle over the years as it is green and not too tarmacked so it would be nice if it continued that way.” A second resident wrote: ‘I understand the need to agree a long term plan to ensure a financially viable plan for Elvaston Castle and Park. I also appreciate the costs of restoring areas, especially buildings. However, the current application seems to be much more extensive and over-commercialize the park.
“The current application is such a wasted opportunity that it will needlessly throw the baby out with the bathwater. Please ask for an app that’s a lot less destructive, a lot more respectful of what’s out there, and wastes less taxpayer money on things that aren’t needed. Another opposing resident wrote: ‘I am very alarmed to hear of the intention to build a road through the beautiful grounds of Elvaston Castle.
“I’ve enjoyed this open green public space since I was a kid and don’t understand why anyone would think this road is either necessary or somehow a good idea. This is certainly not the case. People have been through so much stress over the past few years and there has never been a time when the healing power of nature’s open spaces has never been needed.
“The time has surely come to enhance our wonderful green spaces and not to destroy them. In the interests of people’s sanity, we should focus on preserving our campaign. A fourth opposing resident wrote: ‘People visit Elvaston Castle National Park to experience its wonderful nature and wildlife. What is planned is actively destroying significant parts of this and this can only harm both the park itself and the visitors and locals in the area.
The scheme proposes a new 1.5km ‘discreet’ access route from a roundabout to be built on the B5010 close to the Thulston roundabout, leading to a new 600 space car park – previously costing £5 million. It also involves the restoration and transformation of many buildings around the castle complex into shops, lodges, workshops, shops and a training center.
A new 150-seat cafe and adventure playground would also be built as part of this first phase, along with “improved landscaping” throughout the site. The plan aims to create 176 new full-time jobs with 194 in total across the site including existing jobs in the figure.
The new car park would have 634 parking spaces, including 33 spaces equipped with electric charging stations and 39 spaces reserved for disabled users. There would be 100 spaces for bicycles. An automatic license plate recognition system would register vehicles parked at the site and visitors could pay to park via their phone.
Another 600-space overflow car park would also be made available in an adjacent field.