By Andrew Topping, Local Democracy Reporter
The closure of Nottingham Castle following the liquidation of the trust in charge has been described as a “significant blow” to the city.
But Nottingham City Council says it will be working with its partners to get the castle open “as soon as possible” once the next steps become clear.
The Nottingham Castle Trust, which operates the historic site on behalf of the council, announced it was going into liquidation on Monday (November 21).
The news meant the castle and all its grounds closed with immediate effect.
In a statement, the trust put its liquidation down to lower-than-expected visitor numbers, the lasting impact of Covid, the ongoing cost of living crisis and a “threefold increase” in its own bills.
It comes just 18 months after the historic site reopened following a £33m renovation that took three years to complete.
The team behind the revamp had the vision for the castle to become a “world-class” heritage site that rivalled historic locations such as York and Warwick.
But its reopening was marred by difficulties including board resignations and significantly-missed visitor number targets.
Councillor Pavlos Kotsonis (Lab), the council’s portfolio holder for leisure, culture and planning, outlined the next steps for the castle.
He said: “It is a matter of huge disappointment. This is clearly a significant blow to the city and its visitor economy.
“The council’s immediate priority is to work with the appointed liquidators to support those staff at the Castle who have been affected by this sad news, and to safeguard the site and its collections while it is not operational.
“We appreciate the significant efforts that the employees of the Trust have put into the site and understand how devastated they must be by this news.
“We will re-open the castle as soon as possible.
“Once we have a clearer picture from the liquidators, we will explore all available options together with our key partners The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Arts Council England and others to develop a fresh business model.
“There is a real commitment from all parties to see this important cultural asset fulfil its full potential for the city and the wider region as a successful visitor attraction.”
The trust’s statement confirmed Interpath Advisory has been nominated as liquidators to formally wind up the affairs of the trust.
It said visitor numbers had remained “highly unpredictable and significantly below forecasts” and followed a “particularly tough summer”.
The statement added: “This is a heartbreaking day for trustees, our staff, visitors, and the city.
“Despite the immense dedication of staff and volunteers, the Castle is now closed to visitors.
“While visitor numbers have been improving, they have unfortunately remained highly unpredictable and significantly below forecasts, mirroring the difficulties seen across the whole cultural sector.
“In line with heritage organisations and attractions across the UK, Nottingham Castle experienced a particularly tough summer that has negatively impacted expected funding streams.
“The immense challenges posed by the pandemic, the financial crisis and the three-fold rise in energy costs meant that this charitable trust model was no longer workable.
“The trust was simply not able to evolve quickly enough to survive the ongoing economic crisis as it enters its quietest trading period of the year.”
The statement went on to say the trust stands by its “vibrant vision” for the castle and is hopeful any new operator will bring this to fruition.
Lilian Greenwood is Labour MP for Nottingham South.
She said: “I’m deeply disappointed to hear that the Nottingham Castle Trust is placing itself into insolvency and closing the Castle site today.
“This comes at a particularly difficult time in the run-up to Christmas, and my thoughts are with all the hard-working Castle staff and volunteers affected by this decision.
“Nottingham Castle is a jewel in the crown of our brilliant city and I welcome the commitment by Nottingham City Council to work with the funders and others to re-open the Castle site as soon as possible.
“I stand ready to do all I can to ensure the Castle is an attraction we can all be proud of.”
The trust liquidation is expected to begin in the next 10 days.