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Grade I-listed Welsh castle saved from ruin - image

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Acumen Architects is drawing up plans to bring north Wales' dilapidated Grade I-listed Gwrych Castle back to life, including the addition of two new contemporary structures.

The castle, near Abergele, was built in 1819 and is one of Wales' most historic buildings. Sadly, it has been exposed to the elements for the last 25 years and its valuable contents looted after its previous American owner left it in the hands of travellers.

Yorkshire-based Clayton Hotels bought the castle for £850,000 and now intends to transform it into a five-star hotel. In addition to a general restoration exercise, which will involve the addition of a new slate roof and the repair of crumbling stonework, Huddersfield-based Acumen is also seeking permission to add two contemporary spaces to the rear of the castle.

Acumen director Jeremy Child says: 'We have had a few conversations with Conwy [County Borough Council's planning department]. We have said the two extensions will be between the rear of the building and the rock outcrop and so will not be seen from the [A55] road.

'We are planning a complete contrast to look like they have been deliberately planted on to the castle. It is a better option than a half-hearted effort just to blend in'.

The 90-bed hotel scheme, which will cost between £6 and £10 million, has been welcomed by Welsh Assembly Culture Minister and Clwyd West Assembly Member Alun Pugh, who says: 'I am glad the castle has new owners who have given their full assurance that they will fully respect the castle's unique architecture'.

Child says that provided planning consent is granted, he expects the castle to be returned to its former glory in time for the 2008/09 New Year celebrations.

by Max Thompson

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