PLANS to turn the Grade I listed Norris Castle into a luxury Isle of Wight hotel; its farm, walled kitchen garden and outbuildings into a wellness centre; its Grade II listed pump house into a clubhouse; its Grade II listed cattle shelters into a residence; and to build retail and restaurant facilities, have been refused.

The news will no doubt have come as a disappointment to Norris Castle Estate Group (NECG), which owns the castle and grounds, but was welcomed by those who turned out to watch the decision-making process, at County Hall. 

Speaking to the County Press last week, NECG's architect Robert Rummey questioned why ‘anyone would want to refuse such a wonderful opportunity which will conserve 11 listed buildings’.

Tonight, County Hall's planning committee members disagreed, after considering the hybrid, wide-ranging scheme.

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Also under councillors' consideration were plans for a swimming pool, hotel suites, accommodation built within the sea wall, a boathouse and slipway.

The 76-hectare site off New Barn Road, adjacent to the Osborne and Barton Manor estates, was bought by NECG for £4.7 million in 2015.

Plans for the dilapidated castle and grounds were submitted to the Isle of Wight Council in February 2022. After consultation, the proposals were subsequently revised.

Among those speaking tonight was a representative from the Isle of Wight Society, who said she was worried about the proposed access to the site, from East Cowes Esplanade.

Calling the area 'unspoilt,' the spokesperson said: "The Esplanade and beach are used very well and recreationally, by parents and children, the elderly, and walkers with and without dogs."  
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Objecting to the proposal, East Cowes Mayor Tracy Reardon said: "We have huge concerns regarding extra traffic. Our Esplanade is much used and much loved."

Deputy Mayor, and IW West Green Party candidate, Cameron Palin, dismissed the plans as hoping to create a 'millionaire's playground' of the historic site.

An in-person site meeting within the usual timeframe had been denied to councillors, it emerged.

Instead, there was a 'virtual site visit' last week and an alternative date was proposed in the future, but council officers said it was unnecessary, adding a site visit is not mandatory.

"Norris Castle is a truly special place," said one of three spokespeople for the developer.

"However, the landscape and buildings were in decline, long before the 2015 purchase by the current owner."

They challenged the way the application had been dealt with by the authorities. 

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Permission had also been sought for an access road from East Cowes Esplanade, across the Springhill Estate, and to demolish a section of wall to provide a new entrance.

In June 2023, its owners were given three weeks to make improvements, when the Isle of Wight Council deemed the historic building's state to have 'worsened considerably'.

The Norris Castle estate is within a National Landscape (what we used to call an AONB).

The planning application also sought outline consent for senior living units, a car park and other buildings on the Springhill Estate, as well as for the luxury report complex in the castle and its grounds.

Among those to have lodged objections were Historic England, East Cowes Town Council, the Isle of Wight Gardens Trust, Save Britain’s Heritage, and the UKSA and the National Landscape Planning Officer. More than 100 letters of objection were also sent to the Isle of Wight Council.

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A further nine letters, including some in support and some without an opinion, were received by the local authority. 

Speaking to the County Press last week, architect Robert Rummey said: “This is a very responsible, exciting, and respectful scheme.

“This is a very serious effort, and we mean it when we say this proposal is viable.

“Time is passing, and the castle is not improving with time.

“This proposal saves all the heritage assets in the way they were originally built and is the only solution that can save all that.”

Among those to disagree was planning committee member, Cllr Matthew Price, who said the plans were 'an absolute travesty'.

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Cllr Julie Jones Evans said: "I do believe it is substantial harm."

Developer, Clynt Wellington, who also attended the meeting and spoke to the committee, had previously told the County Press his plan was to make Norris Castle 'the greenest hotel in Europe.'

He paid nearly £5 million for the estate and had argued £7.4 million worth of damage needed to be repaired.

Cllr Jonathan Bacon said the site could be perfect for a five star hotel but said he had 'a raft of serious concerns' over plans for 'possibly the most important heritage site on the Island.'

Cllr Debbie Andre said: "Once that heritage is lost, it is lost."

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