MEMBERS of a group running a major tourist attraction have been left shocked and upset after learning “through the Press” that the council is in talks over the sale of its site.
Bodelwyddan Castle Trust – which manages the castle and its 260-acre country estate – says despite “considerable” pressure, it has no intention of giving up its 125-year lease and has been left “puzzled” by Denbighshire County Council (DCC) “issuing a resolution” regarding the future of the attraction. The local authority’s cabinet met last week to discuss a confidential report in relation to the site.
It later emerged the council was in talks over the sale of the freehold of Bodelwyddan Castle, which includes the castle, lawns and event arena.
A spokesman for the council confirmed the authority was in discussions in relation to the castle, but went on to say: “There has been open dialogue with the trust throughout about the financial position and these are not matters that we will discuss through the media.
“Any issues on the work of the trust is a matter for them to comment on.
Dr Kevin Mason, company secretary and former director of Bodelwyddan Castle Trust, said: “The trust was dismayed to learn via the Press that Denbighshire County Council’s cabinet had issued a resolution regarding the future of the castle at their meeting on July 18. The trust was not consulted by the council prior to the meeting.
“The resolution seems to assume that Bodelwyddan Castle Trust will relinquish its rights under a 125-year lease on the property and yet the trust has no plans to do this – quite the contrary.”
Dr Mason continues: “The trust is embarking on a major financial overhaul with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund to establish a viable and prosperous business following the ending of local authority financial support as announced previously.
“Therefore, the resolution to sell the castle with vacant possession is untenable, as are other elements of the resolution such as the suggestion that the council’s countryside services will run the public access to the parkland, woodland and replica World War One trench.”
The trust – established by the former Clwyd County Council in 1994 to manage and administer the entire Bodelwyddan Castle historic house and 260-acre estate, aside from the an area leased to Warner Leisure – has written a formal complaint to Denbighshire Council.
Earlier this year, the Journal reported that Bodelwyddan Castle had been forced to end its 29-year partnership with the National Portrait Gallery after Denbighshire Council said it would be withdrawing funding in March 2018.
“On May 8, the trust received an email from one DCC officer with a long list of everything that had to be done by the trust to undertake an orderly winding-up,” Dr Mason added.
“Bodelwyddan Castle Trust launched its new website on Monday – so much for ‘winding-up’.
“The trustees have maintained a very professional stance all through funding issues.
“They just wish to be left to get on with the job of re-organising the trust’s business, to try to ensure a continued and viable public service, despite the council’s decision to reduce funding to zero from April 2018.
“There is certainly no wish to enter into a public slanging match with anyone.
“However, this latest ‘announcement’ is just one step too far.”
Dr Mason said he has been informed that Warner Leisure, which owns the Bodelwyddan Castle hotel, had expressed a “potential interest” in acquiring the castle and additional grounds if they were to become available.