Haverfordwest Castle grounds are to be considered for Village Green Status, as an enquiry is scheduled to take place towards the end of October that could decide its fate in respect of ownership.
The potential sale of the old prison building is the subject of much controversy between the Town Council and the County Council who do not see eye-to-eye, in terms of where future ownership should lie.
Speaking to The Herald, Town Councillor, Peter Lewis, said that his Council had applied for Village Green Status to ensure that the grounds are open to the public at all times, as it was suggested previously that the grounds may only be open to the public at certain times, should the development of a boutique hotel go ahead.
He also wrote that he believed the developer, Griffith-Roach Foundation, had withdrawn its interest in the castle, and, to this end, he questioned the transparency of the County Council who had not accepted an offer, as yet, of £50,000 which the Town Council had put forward for ownership of the former prison building. He went on to say that he believed the County Council were ‘hiding its intentions behind a veil that they call commercial confidentiality’. He also asked if, in fact, the County Council were planning ‘to off-load yet another of our assets for a nominal fee, thus relieving it of cumbersome expenses?’ and put forward the question as to whether the people of Haverfordwest believed in the County Council’s claim that a boutique hotel would attract more visitors than a museum.
However, County Councillor Mark Edwards of Prendergast ward, speaking on behalf of the Independent Plus Political Group, disputed some of these claims saying that the developer had not withdrawn interest and was waiting to see what the outcome would be of the enquiry into Village Green Status. He went on to say that, as far as he was aware, should the developer place a boutique hotel on the castle grounds, then this would actually lead to an improvement of this space, encouraging visitors, apparently welcome to visit at any time. Mr Edwards also believed that such a development would not only improve the grounds, but would also make for a better stewarded castle, in terms of what has become a problem of youths drinking alcohol on the site during the hours of darkness. He stated that the County Council, when deciding upon who should take over the land, would work in the interests of the public and consider what is the best value for the town. When asked how much the developer was offering for the land, in light of the Town Council’s offer, he stated that he did not know the figure. He was also unaware of whether or not the County Council were considering the offer from the Town Council.
Thomas Tudor, County Councillor for Castle ward, also concurred with Mark Edwards that the developer was still interested in the property. He told The Herald that he shared the residents’ concerns over any potential development, promising to ‘champion and represent them by ensuring that answers to their concerns are addressed’. He then referred to an email of last year in which he had said to the Town Council that he had asked for a ‘notice of motion’ to County Council and Cabinet recommending they carry out a full and public consultation with the people of Haverfordwest on site proposals, but that Cabinet had rejected the motion. He went on to say that he had asked for the amount offered by the Griffith-Roach Foundation to be disclosed but was told by Pembrokeshire County Council that this information was unavailable due to ‘commercial sensitivity’.
Haverfordwest residents must wait until the end of October to find out if the site is given Village Green Status or not, an outcome which is likely to have a defining impact on whether or not the Griffith-Roach Foundation pursue its goal of building a boutique hotel on the grounds of this significant, nearly eight-hundred year old, Haverfordwest historical landmark.