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Plans to turn former county jail at Haverfordwest Castle into visitor attraction approved

Plans to convert the former county jail at Haverfordwest Castle to a visitor attraction have been given the go-ahead (Pic: Pembrokeshire County Council)

AMENDED smaller-scale plans to convert the former county jail at Haverfordwest Castle to a ‘levelling-up’ visitor attraction have been given the go-ahead.

The application for works at the Grade II listed building, by Pembrokeshire County Council, was recommended – and given – for conditional approval by county planners last April.

The 2023 granted application included new visitor attraction facilities containing space for ticketing and orientation, exhibition, education centre, café and shop, and associated works.

A report for planners at the time the main approval was granted stated: “The application site comprises the former county gaol building (erected 1820) and associated car park situated immediately to the west.  The building was extensively remodelled in the 1960s to provide accommodation for the county archive.  The building has been vacant for a number of years.”

The building was redeveloped and extended in the 1960s, with the removal of the previous south-facing prison yard walls and the introduction of a plant room/office feature.

Plans to convert the former county jail at Haverfordwest Castle to a visitor attraction have been given the go-ahead (Pic: Pembrokeshire County Council)

At the March 2024 meeting of the county council’s planning committee, members heard constraints on the size of the development were now recommended following further evaluation.

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“The amended plans are a product of the constraints placed on the developable area due to the findings of an archaeological evaluation that was undertaken since the application was previously before planning committee.

“The amended proposal is reduced such that it primarily sits within the footprint of the existing building.

“The aesthetic of the proposal, although reduced in scale, remains similar to that previously subject to a resolution to approve, including consistency in proposed materials.

“The footprint of the existing building forms the basis for the proposal.  Extensions are no longer proposed to the south-east and north sides of the building (the latter replaced by an enclosed equipment compound).”

A report for members added: “Due primarily to its reduced scale, the amended proposal is considered to be a betterment in terms of effect on the historic environment and overall design.”

Speaking at the March meeting, Haverfordwest Sheriff Cllr Arthur Brooker said the town council was fully in support of the project, adding: “And general consensus within the town, as far as we know, is to support this project”.

He said there had been some concerns raised about the possible impact on car parking in the area but stressed: “The general consensus is it’s a welcome development.”

Members backed approval of the changes, which were moved by Cllr Mark Carter.

The application forms part of a wider Heart of Pembrokeshire Levelling up project in the town.

The successful Levelling Up Fund application announced in late 2021 included adding to ongoing improvements at Haverfordwest Castle to create an outdoor performance area, renovation of the jail, and perimeter walks with a direct link to the town centre via Bridge Street, and on to the Western Quayside and Riverside via a ‘signature bridge’.

Due to budget savings, the council has recently removed the Bridge Street link and walkways – replacing it with an alternative link via Castle Square and Castle back.

The gaol visitor experience is intended to be the centrepiece of the Heart of Pembrokeshire scheme.

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