GLAMPING is to set up permanent summer camp at Warwick Castle.
The Foxes Study area of the castle grounds, by the river, will play host to 41 glamorous camping tents from May until the end of September for the next three summers, along with toilet and shower facilities.
Warwick District Council planning committee this week gave the green-light despite objections from
neighbours and conservationists who fear castle owners Merlin Entertainments Group (MEG) want to turn the castle into a “theme park”.
Concerns range from increased noise to possible long term damage to the historic castle grounds
Warwick Society chairman James Mackay said: “Foxes Study is an integral part of the Castle Park and grounds, no less significant than every other element of the buildings and landscape of national significance.
“The proposal would cause substantial harm to the landscape. It would have an immediate damaging visual impact on the woodland in which it is proposed to impose the ‘glampsite’.
“In the longer term, the effect on the ecology of the woodland would be to cause permanent damage to the trees.
Castle bosses argue glamping – which has taken place for the past two summers – brings a major boost to the economy of both the castle and the town, and have received support from both councillors and townspeople.
They hope to attract some 14,000 overnight visitors during the three years for which the licence has been granted, and predict it could generate as much as £50 million for the local economy. Last summer the medieval-themed experience cost £160 per tent per night.
But the Warwick Society remains unconvinced by the economic argument.
Mr Mackay said: “The proclaimed economic benefits to the town and region are not supported by evidence or analysis but only by anecdote, and are balanced by loss of amenity to residents.
“No evidence is provided for the value of this to the local economy. Merlin’s business strategy is to maximise the length of stay and the expenditure of visitors within the Castle and its grounds. Some may escape into the town.
“But higher turnover for a few pubs and restaurants again fails to provide a wholly exceptional reason for damaging the landscape. And harm done to the amenity of neighbouring residents, represents an economic loss, reducing the net effect of any benefit.”
Castle bosses say the injection of cash from this week’s successful glamping bid will help fund on-going restoration.
Castle General Manager Geoff Spooner said: “We are very pleased with the decision which underlines the importance of the Castle as the key driver of tourist visits to the district and the significant economic benefit that this brings with it.”
“Importantly, the decision will continue to allow Warwick Castle to operate as a viable visitor attraction, develop our business further and invest in the heritage maintenance projects that are essential to its ongoing restoration and upkeep.
“We are delighted that we will again be able to welcome a significant number of overnight guests to Warwick in 2015 to enjoy our hugely popular Medieval Glamping experience, many of whom will visit the town as part of their stay.”
MEG was refused permission last November after applying to build up to 20 permanent lodges, along with creating room for the 41 glamping tents.
Glamping tents will become a permanent summer feature of the Castle. (s)