Former Wisbech Castle boss warns town council they lack the ‘ imagination, the money and the expertise’ to run it

Wisbech castle

Wisbech castle - Credit: Archant

Wisbech Town councillors have been accused of being clueless by trying to save the historic castle, as they don’t have the ‘imagination, the money or the expertise.’

The castle has been transferred to Wisbech Town Council on a long lease with a peppercorn rent along with a £150,000 loan from the county council, repayable over 25 years, to carry out repairs and improvements.

But two weeks ahead of the town’s first meeting into how to save it for future generations, Geoffrey Wilkinson, the former county council castle manager, said: “I fear the Town Council have not a clue as to what they have taken on and the costs involved, nor have they any knowledge of the extensive history of the site.

“I believe there is huge potential for the building and its ancient site, but unfortunately the town council has neither the imagination, the money nor the expertise to realise the potential which could make the castle a real asset to the town.

“The best income I ever managed was £38,000 a year when much of the building was used by the now defunct secondary support for one to one teaching.

“The place survived despite a lack of structural maintenance, but with a lot of care from dedicated staff.

“After the closure further deterioration has taken place and a huge cost will be incurred to put it into a workable state.

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“It needs rewiring and a new heating system. It needs improved toilet facilities, the garden needs a complete make over.

“More importantly there is no disabled access and its Grade II listed status makes this almost impossible to add.

“Someone’s bright idea of a tourist information centres is impossible without disabled access.

“Also it has no workable catering kitchen.

Mayor Councillor Steve Tierney said in a recent blog that the aims of the project were to maintain Wisbech Castle as a public resource and asset, to preserve it for future generations and ensure the building is not a burden on taxpayers.

He said: “There is nothing easy about this project and I will not claim there is.

“It’s a real challenge and carries some risk. But is it worth trying? Is it worth doing? I believe so.

“Wisbech Castle is part of the fibre of the town, built into its DNA, a long-standing historic monument both in its current form and for what has gone before.

“A committee of councillors can’t do this alone. Wisbech Town Council can’t do this alone. But together, I really believe we have a great opportunity here to deliver something absolutely incredible for Wisbech and everybody who lives here.

“If you are excited about Wisbech Castle, if you think you have something to offer or can help – please get in touch.”

Councillor Sam Hoy said: “We have the funds, the vision and no, we don’t have heritage experience, but that is why we have a committee of many different people to drive this.”

Cllr Hoy’s report – backed by the town council – sees Wisbech Castle as catering for a variety of community needs, education and learning, culture, heritage, weddings and space for community meetings.

• Wisbech Town Council meet to discuss the castle on Tuesday April 3 at 7pm in the council chamber. The meeting is followed, at 8pm, by a meeting of the Wisbech Castle Working Party.