10 JUL 2009
English Heritage shouldn't run our castles
Deal Castle, pictured, is a beautiful old fortress. And superbly located by the sea as you can see. It's steeped in history. I went there for the Men of Kent reception last Saturday evening and learned it will no longer host functions like wedding and hospitality events. See the report in the excellent new Deal and Sandwich Express newspaper here.
Why? Because English Heritage say that £6 a minute is not enough. At this level of cost, the excuse that it is "not ecomically viable" is obviously complete rubbish. They just can't be bothered, can they?
Yet Deal and also affected Walmer castle are important to our local economy. The decision by English Heritage, taken for its own convenience being the typically unelected, unaccountable quango that it is, is harmful to our local economy. The knock on effect is that less people will use Deal's hotels to stay, restaurants to eat and there will be less footfall in our local shops. But of course, Government and Government linked things like English Heritage never take that into account, do they?
Which brings me neatly to another frustration. Why is Deal Castle basically empty? They could have a museum there, do re-enactments, put up some of the art that Deal Town Council has, make it a magnet and a jewel in the crown of Deal. A celebration of our great history as a great naval port and host to the Channel Fleet. But no . . . it's empty. Just dull old washwashed walls. Hardly even a stick of furniture! And that's the basic problem. English Heritage does not exist to promote our culture or economy, but to preserve it in aspic.
That's why I think Deal and Walmer castles (at least the management!) should be handed over to the District Council - or anyone else that feels like doing a proper job. Because we are not getting the best our of these amazing resources on our doorstep. And we could get so much more. They could act as a total magnet for visitors to enjoy . . . and spend money in our community. Needless to say, the same is true of Dover Castle. People tell me that the tunnels are great, but the rest . . . is disappointing. We could do so so much more with the great assets we have in our community. In my service for Dover and Deal, getting the best for our beautiful area is a key priority.
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