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Visitor scheme at old county jail approved by Pembrokeshire County Council

PLANS to convert the former county jail – and former county archive – at Haverfordwest Castle to a visitor attraction have been given the go-ahead.

The application for works at the Grade II listed building, by Pembrokeshire County Council, was recommended for conditional approval at the authority’s April 25 planning committee meeting.

A report for planners 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 as a county archive facility, with the removal of the previous south-facing prison yard walls and the introduction of a plant room/office feature.

The original gaol cell windows have been infilled with metal grille arrangements.

The report adds: “The building is proposed to be converted and extended to provide a range of visitor facilities including ticketing, exhibition space, technical support and storage spaces, shop, an education centre and a café as well as staff, administration and ancillary facilities.

“An element of demolition is proposed. The proposal forms part of a wider strategy to improve and refurbish the castle site.”

At the April 25 planning meeting, members unanimously backed delegated approval of the application, which had been moved by Councillor 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’.

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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.