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St Modwen selected for £100 million Castle Hill visitor attraction scheme at Dudley

St Modwen Properties PLC and Bellway Urban Partnership have been selected by Dudley Council as preferred developers for a £100 million scheme which will transform Castle Hill, Dudley, one of the country’s most important historic and geological sites into an international visitor attraction.

Castle Hill, a prominent West Midlands landmark, includes Dudley Zoo, the 11th century castle and more than 40 acres of brownfield land and a major woodland area.

The proposal is to regenerate the existing zoo, separate it from the castle, and create additional visitor attractions in the castle, and by exploiting the caverns and fossil history of the site. The scheme will also establish strong linkages with the existing Black Country Living Museum and Dudley Canal Trust, providing a unique mix of high-quality visitor attractions providing fun with an educational slant.

Alongside this special leisure experience, Bellway will develop a variety of housing.

It is envisaged that the imaginative and ambitious project will on completion attract some two million visitors to the town annually and create 1,000 new jobs. The scheme will have direct access from the town centre of Dudley which can expect to benefit from this major visitor destination immediately alongside it.

Among the proposals are to: –

  • Create within the castle ruins a themed exhibition on siege craft and castle life which will enable visitors to re-live the experience of being besieged in a mediaeval castle. The remainder of the castle courtyard will be used for outside events such as themed banquets, jousting and mock battles re- enacting 12th and 17th century sieges of the castle.
  • Revitalise the zoo into a state-of-the-art urban zoo, concentrating on smaller animals, particularly those relating to on-site themes. It will encompass a strong emphasis on educational and appropriate breeding programmes, particularly for endangered species. The aim is to have at least one section which will be recognised as a national leader. The new zoo will have a strong childrens focus. St. Modwen is already seeking the highest quality zoological advice on the appropriate way forward for the creation of the urban zoo and have available advice from internationally renowned architects to help it deliver this element of the project.
  • Create an exciting themed exhibition of the origins of the species building on the exceptional fossil remains existing at Castle Hill. A newly-built exhibition area will give access to the ancient Stores Cavern, and feature fossils and dinosaurs, and other pre-historic species. There will be a strong linkage between this exhibit and the Zoo which will include species with ancestral links to those exhibited in Origins.
  • Establish Botanical World, a visitor attraction based around the zoo’s existing Tropical House, which will provide an insight into the world of botany, and provide a tropical rain forest experience with a display of flora and fauna and ‘noises’ of the forest. Alongside will be a themed garden centre which will also provide an educational botanical element.
  • Transform the Castle Hill Woodland into a safe, accessible managed woodland park, open at no charge to visitors and local residents and featuring picnic areas.

This major project will be a public sector/private sector joint venture and has the active encouragement of Advantage West Midlands. There will be close consultation with all interested parties over the next few months and it is hoped to commence on site in Spring 2002.

Coun. Tim Sunter, Leader of Dudley Council, said: “I am delighted that we are working with St Modwen and Bellway to deliver a multi-million pound investment and regeneration scheme at the heart of the borough and the Black Country. The enhanced visitor attractions and associated job creation can only benefit the borough.

Anthony Glossop, Chief Executive of St Modwen Properties, said: “Castle Hill is a very special opportunity. An unusual blend of skills is required which we have based on our track record in local authority partnerships and brownfield development, and our other heritage/visitor attractions regeneration schemes such as Brighton West Pier, the Great British Kitchen at Stafford, and Trentham Gardens, Stoke-on-Trent.

“We are delighted to have been selected by Dudley and very much look forward to turning our proposals into reality.”

For further information contact Anthony Glossop on 0121 456 2800. Issued by Paul Raymer of Howle Chapman Raymer (0121 236 7771)