ITV pays for new I’m a Celebrity castle visitor centre after storm damage
Richard Evans, local democracy reporter
ITV has paid for a new visitor centre at Gwrych Castle after a tree blown over in a furious storm destroyed a previous cabin.
Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust says Storm Arwen caused ‘horrific’ damage to the I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! set when it hit in November last year.
Such was the damage, the film crew was forced to stop filming at the grade-one listed building in the days after the storm.
Now the trust has applied to Conwy County Council’s planning department for temporary permission for a new cabin – paid for by ITV.
The new cabin is larger and includes a kitchen and toilet for staff but is still moveable so the site remains flexible for filming.
The hit show is set to return to the Australian jungle this autumn, but the castle is expected to host spin-offs.
A spokesman for the castle’s trust said: “We had a small visitor centre gifted to us by Bodelwydden Castle.
“That got destroyed during the storm by a tree. ITV very kindly bought us a new one, so that’s the one we are asking for planning permission for.
“The other was a lot smaller, and it was movable, so it wouldn’t have required planning, but the new one that ITV has given us has got a kitchen, toilet, and proper facilities for the staff and volunteers.
“When the storm hit it was strange because it obliterated a huge amount of the woods around the castle. So there were about 10,000 trees down. It was horrific, and it is still bad up there.
“It was so dangerous. You could hear things collapsing. You could hear things ripping. The cabin was destroyed. It was unusable, but ITV very kindly gave us a new one.
“Years and years of work is needed to get it (the woodland) back to how it was before.”
The trust says the exposure from the TV show is helping with the restoration of the castle, a project which will cost tens of millions of pounds.
“It is one of the largest restoration jobs in Britain,” said the spokesman.
“The plan is to restore it and open it to the public. What we tried to do is open as much as possible during the early stages so people can see how the work is developing. It has been quite unusual because of the high level of public access.
“We had 100,000 visitors last year. So they get to see behind the scenes, but it is part of that process to see things happening, so when we do these planning applications, it is another step forward, and the idea is it will be all restored.
“It will be done in stages. The total project cost will be about £20m. The first stage will be the roof, floors, and (getting the) main rooms back open. It depends on funding and what is successful at that point in time. We are in the process of it (funding) being all pulled together.”
“The castle is a good employer. It draws in people from all over Britain because of the show. It is really amazing to see how busy Abergele gets with visitors, and the shops are often full, particularly down on the beach, which is one of the main viewing areas for the castle. It gets packed down there.
“The show has more than doubled the visitor numbers that we had previously, due to I’m a Celeb.”
He added: “Things like the Santa’s grotto, we are doing again this year, and we’ve got something big planned for Halloween.”
The trust has applied to Conwy’s planning department, seeking to retain the visitor centre in the car park for five years.
Plans to relocate the toilets to the other side of the car park are also included in the same application.
The plans will be discussed at a future planning committee meeting.
ITV was contacted for a comment.
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