£3.5m castle project has ground to a halt

Pontefract Castle
Pontefract Castle

Work to conserve the ruins of Pontefract Castle as part of a £3.5m restoration project has come to a standstill.

And a new visitor centre, initially expected to open at the historic site in September, has also been delayed indefinitely.

Karen Collins, Wakefield Council’s service director culture and sport, said: “Work at the Pontefract visitor centre and on the castle has temporarily come to a halt due to circumstances beyond our control - as the main contractor William Anelay has gone into administration.

“This is deeply frustrating and disappointing. Unfortunately, this will have an impact on the timescales for completing the work. We are exploring all our options to get this important historical project moving and completed as soon as possible.”

The Key to the North Project aims to remove the castle from the English Heritage At Risk register, conserve the site for future generations and boost learning opportunities.

The redevelopment will see a new visitor centre, exhibition space with castle artefacts, shop and cafe created at the site. And Swillington Tower and the Sally Port will be opened for viewing for the first time since the 1600s.

Sir Bill O’Brien, secretary of the Pontefract Town Centre Partnership and the town’s Magna Carta Society, said: “The contractor was doing a wonderful job but a new contractor is now needed to complete the work.

“It’s sad because it was going so well. The visitor centre was due to open in September and we were looking forward to making steps to boost tourism in the town.”

Chairman of the Pontefract Civic Society Paul Cartwright added: “Work stopped at a stage where the new visitor centre and cafe were nearly complete. It is disappointing but understandable that there is going to be a delay, whilst the council assesses what they can do next. I am in no doubt that the finished project will be a boost for the town.”