‘Work needs to be done soon or the whole site could be lost’ is the dire message from the owners of East Cowes’ ‘hidden gem’, Norris Castle.
Tucked away at the top of the town, next to the Osborne Estate, with views overlooking The Solent, Norris Castle has been, and still is, a site of local mystery.
After being shut away from the public for many years, there are plans for the Grade 1 listed building, built in 1799 by architect James Wyatt, along with the rest of its farm buildings and 225 acre estate, to be opened up by developers, GTS Property, who have been working over the past five years to ‘reinstate and protect’ the historic asset, according to the team.
A website, norris-castle.com, has been launched for the public to interact with, showing the developer’s intentions, photos and drone footage and a question and answer section,.
Clynt Wellington, from GTS Property, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions have affected our face-to-face engagement, following 12 months of careful review on the heritage, viability and planning.
“The website will therefore allow the team to engage with the public following our previous consultation and provide updates along with our plans and proposals as they develop, encouraging direct feedback from the public.”
GTS are proposing to turn the Norris Estate into a new 5-star leisure resort for the Island, with a hotel, branded residences and housing, which they hope will safeguard the area for future generations, and will ‘attract local and international partners, ensuring the long-term viability of the estate.’
With the plan going into its final stages, developers have warned they will need to act sooner rather than later due to the decline and erosion of the site over the last 50 years — which has led to the estate being listed on Historic England’s ‘at risk’ register.
Mr Wellington said: “Significant investment is needed to not only bring the buildings back to their former glory but also address the significant landslip and coastal erosion issues which are compromising the structural integrity of the site and reducing the practicability of safeguarding the assets.
“Doing nothing is not an option and it is therefore imperative that urgent action is taken to halt the further decline of the estate whilst providing a long-term use to maintain it.”
Pictures of the decline and erosion have been shared on the new website, showing just how bad the conditions are of some of the castle’s rooms.
There has also been an increase in the level of trespassing, vandalism and attempted break-ins at the castle, despite the 24 hour security, which has lead to more security measures being installed, while liaising with public authorities.
Isle of Wight MP Bob Seely has visited the castle and discussed plans with the development team, and has said he looks forward to seeing how the ‘potentially important plans’ develop.
Mr Seely said: “I welcome consultation between the owners of Norris Castle and the local community. It is important we give feedback and I encourage people to do so.
“When the post-Covid recovery begins, we will need new developments and new projects to create new jobs on the Island.”
Residents who do not have internet access are invited to call the project helpline number 0800 121 4890 for more information. It is thought a planning application will be submitted this year.