What is the Trust?
Elvaston Castle and Gardens Trust is a registered charity, created to preserve the history of Elvaston Castle and Gardens and ensure its availability for future generations. The Elvaston Masterplan contains a commitment by Derbyshire County Council (DCC), the legal owners of Elvaston, to transfer the day to day running of Elvaston to the Trust.
Why do you need a Trust – why can’t DCC staff just do it?
Derbyshire County Council is responsible for making decisions about the best way to spend public money, with education, health and social care being key priorities. The decision to hand over the running of Elvaston to a Charitable Trust is not an unusual one. Many other leisure, recreation, heritage and tourism operations have been similarly transferred to charities and social enterprises. This enables places like Elvaston to be maintained, operated and developed more effectively. It ensures that money can be spent more efficiently in the interests of communities and the local economy whilst Elvaston itself remains in public ownership.
Who are the Trustees?
The Trust is made up of a Board of Trustees. Further information about the Trustees is available at futureevlaston.co.uk. Trustees are unpaid volunteers who share a passion and commitment to preserve Elvaston for future generations. Anyone can apply to become a Trustee when a vacancy arises. Trustees are appointed through a rigorous interview process, have wide-ranging skills and come from all walks of life.
Isn’t the Trust just doing what Derbyshire County Council tells them to?
No. The Trust is a completely independent organisation committed to working in partnership with Derbyshire County Council and other stakeholders. As a registered charity the Trust is bound by strict operational guidelines.
How can I get involved?
There are several ways to become involved.
To become a Trustee, please contact us setting out your professional skills and we will contact you when a suitable vacancy arises.
There are various stakeholder and focus groups we consult with to better understand the needs of our diverse community.
There is ongoing development of a broad volunteer base to actively help with the many projects that are evolving.
All in cases, please contact the Trustees using the email address email@example.com.
Won’t the unique and wonderful character of Elvaston be lost?
The Trust is determined to protect the unique character of Elvaston and implement positive changes that will future-proof the Elvaston heritage. Additionally, there is so much more to discover that is currently off limits to the public. The plans will seek to open those spaces for the public to enjoy in a sustainable way. There will therefore be even more of Elvaston to enjoy in the future.
Won’t it make the park busier?
Yes. We need more people to visit Elvaston to generate sufficient revenue to continually improve the house, gardens and park environments. Whilst we anticipate that annual visitor numbers will increase from around 250,000 (currently) to over 400,000, these numbers will be spread more evenly throughout the year. Currently they are concentrated around school holidays and summer weekends.
Won’t it make local roads busy?
Improved access arrangements mean the traffic flow will be much improved and the point of access will be closer to a main road. Local highways signage will direct people away from surrounding villages. We are working closely with the County Council to ensure minimum disruption to local communities whilst improving accessibility and enhancing the visitor experience.
There will be more vehicles on site once complete, won’t this be dangerous?
The improved vehicle access is separate from the main pedestrian thoroughfares and hidden from the core of the park. Environmental impacts will be embraced. The safety of pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders is paramount.
Why is there so much new development?
To ensure a sustainable future, we must invest in the infrastructure around the estate, and on the estate itself. There are many wonderful parts of Elvaston that are currently off-limits to the public. Our goal is to open up much more of the estate to the public and to bring the infrastructure back to life. For example, did you know that there are three courtyards of beautiful stable buildings and a gardener’s cottage just a stones’ throw from the shop and an original Real Tennis Court just beyond? The walled gardens are a delight and there are curious treats around every turn. They will be re-purposed for the visitor of today . . . and tomorrow. To achieve all this, we must develop and invest.
Why is the new car park so close to the house?
One of the core values of the Trust is to ensure inclusivity and accessibility for all. This is reflected in our charitable aims. By relocating the car park closer to the house, we are ensuring that all visitors are equally able to enjoy all of the amenities. Relocation of the car park to a more central location will also preserve the ecology of the park and minimise the risk of irreversible erosion to the historic landscape around the lake. In order to preserve the estate, we need to protect the more vulnerable areas from further damage.
What is Elvaston’s contribution to carbon net zero?
We are currently investigating a range of suitable and appropriate options for sustainable energy on the estate and will be considering these further as we progress with detailed design work. For instance, plans for the new car park include EV charging points.
How are you going to stop Elvaston from flooding?
We certainly don’t want events to be cancelled or impacted by flooding! The plans we are developing include a full review of drainage on the estate. Work on some areas is already happening as part of current projects. Other areas will be part of longer-term plans for the conservation of the park and gardens.
Will an Environmental Impact Assessment be carried out during planning?
Yes. Any future planning applications for the proposed redevelopment of Elvaston will be formally screened by the Local Planning Authority. This will provide an opinion on whether the proposal requires an Environmental Impact Assessment.
Will a Climate Impact Assessment be carried out during planning?
Yes. Although it isn’t a legal requirement, the County Council intends to carry out a Climate Impact Assessment for the Masterplan.
How many trees will be removed for the new access drive?
More new trees will be planted than will be removed – giving a net gain in trees overall. The driveway route has been designed to retain any trees that have an arboricultural value, and only small areas of marginal woodland will be affected. In the future, we intended to further improve conservation work, which has been curtailed in recent years due to limited investment availability. Some areas have become overrun with self-seeding trees and brambles which have had a negative impact on established trees.
What will be new at Elvaston?
New visitor experiences will include: a purpose-built café and restaurant, a tea-room in the stable yard, pop-up catering at various locations throughout the estate, a new adventure play area, craft workshops, retail spaces, toilets, baby changing facilities, welcome gateway and orientation centre, all with improved accessibility. Indoor spaces for dog owners will be included in the restaurant. Walking, cycling, and bridleway routes will be enhanced with improved signage. More experiences will be added as the plan progresses.
Will new housing be built at Elvaston?
No. The Trust is against any new housing development on the estate. This forms no part of the current plan. There will be new holiday lodges and holiday accommodation which will be an income generator.
Will there be facilities for visitors with disabilities?
Yes. We are working with local community groups, and consulting with focus groups to ensure accessibility for all. At busy times an electric buggy service or similar is envisaged to take visitors with impaired mobility from the car park to the visitor hub. At quieter times disabled parking will be available closer to the core buildings. Trampers, off road mobility scooters, are already available to hire at Elvaston and these kinds of facilities will be retained and improved to meet future demand. All indoor spaces will be fully accessible, with an additional Changing Places toilet in the café area to add to the existing one in the toilet block.
Will the caravan park be reopened?
Yes. We are currently looking for the right partner to do this with. We intend to re-open it, with improved facilities, as soon as possible.
Will all the areas currently shut to the public reopen?
Many of the areas currently closed to the public will be renovated and brought back into use for visitors. This will also relate to events and functions taking place in specific areas of Elvaston as income generation may necessitate.
Will the cost of parking increase?
The parking charges will stay broadly as they are now, yet they will increase with inflation. Additionally, there will be a new cheaper rate in the mornings and evenings, before and after everything is open, for walkers, dog owners and locals. Season tickets will continue to be available for regular visitors.
What will happen to the current car park?
The existing car park will continue to be used at particularly busy times, for example when there are events on the showground. There is also an opportunity for future extension of the caravan site.
Why not restore the house and open it to the public?
In 1964 all the original contents were sold by the Harrington family, so there are none of the original furnishings to view. Whilst the house is Grade II*, it is not considered sufficiently attractive in relation to other local houses to generate interest. As such, there is unlikely to be sustainable long-term demand from potential visitors willing to pay for admission to see the house. We will, however, provide regular tours of the most significant rooms in the house, and hope to open the gothic kitchen to the public on a regular basis.
What will happen to the house?
The house is Grade II* which means that any work must be planned, approved and carried out sensitively. Potential uses will include: weddings, conferences, art and craft exhibitions. For the upper floors we are evaluating the possibility of holiday and conference accommodation. This is a big undertaking that will happen over a number of years. Developments elsewhere on the estate will help fund this work.
Is the house haunted?
There are some ghost stories associated with the house, and we will be monitoring for any paranormal activity as we work on the house. We may be able to offer ghost tours or other paranormal events in the future.
Why is the plan for such a big and expensive Café and Restaurant?
We are building a café and restaurant to meet future demand. Constructing a café and installing all the necessary services and infrastructure is surprisingly expensive, and we don’t want to build a cafe now that will need upgrading, replacing or extending in the medium-term. Like all our plans for Elvaston, this is about ensuring the long-term viability of the estate.
What’s going on with Home Farm?
Home Farm is an incredibly special space which requires about £3 million investment for its restoration and conversion. The buildings are not listed and are outside the historic park and garden. We continue to investigate opportunities for this space. We would welcome interest from organisations with an interest in developing the site for leisure or education purposes that require minimal vehicular access.
Will there be opportunities for school trips to Elvaston, including the old Museum?
Yes. We hope to offer much more interesting, exciting, and inspiring opportunities for our future generations when they come to see us, although the old museum won’t re-open in its former guise. A core aim of the Trust is to ensure that Elvaston has a strong educational element and we look forward to working with schools, colleges and universities.
Will there be weddings at the park?
Yes. We already have weddings and in the future we aim to improve the facilities available.
Are you going to have boating on the lake?
No. Boating would be disruptive to the wildlife and arguably inappropriate for Elvaston. The lake will, however, continue to be a focal point.
How will you decide what retail opportunities are appropriate for Elvaston?
We are keen to develop an exciting, interesting and engaging range of high-quality retail. The businesses will complement each other and contribute to a unique environment which will attract visitors from a wide catchment area.
What are your plans for Oak Flatt?
Oak Flatt is an important open space on the estate and is currently grazed seasonally by Longhorn Cattle. We hope to develop this activity further with more rare and native breeds, visitor interpretation and appropriate access which will enhance the overall visitor experience and reflect the historic use of the estate.
Logistics, Funding and Timing
What will the entire project cost?
The current estimate is £35 million. The report submitted to Derbyshire County Council’s Cabinet on 10 September 2020 contains details of how much each element of the Masterplan will cost and is a public document (futureelvaston.co.uk)
Where is the money coming from?
The funding strategy includes contributions from the County Council, some of which would be in the form of a loan that would be paid back over 25 years. External grant bids will be submitted to the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership and the National Lottery Heritage Fund. However, none of these funding streams have been approved as yet and discussions are ongoing with partners on future applications to secure the funding. The funding strategy also includes potential contributions from private developers and other smaller heritage and project funding sources. In the future the Trust, constituted as a charity, will be able to bid for further funding that in some cases would not be available if it remained as a council run park. Elvaston currently costs the taxpayer around £1million a year to run, which just covers the basic maintenance of the site and urgent repairs. Borrowing some of the money needed will be a long-term investment that will ultimately result in a significant saving for the people of Derbyshire. It is also a much healthier and sustainable option for Elvaston, and for all those who come to enjoy its refreshed, preserved, and revitalised facilities.
Why doesn’t the Council just give it to the National Trust?
The National Trust was invited to take on the estate in 2013 but were unable to do so due to the huge financial commitment required. It did, however, provide the County Council with consultancy services to shape the vision, guiding principles and masterplan.
Can’t you just bid for a Heritage Lottery Fund?
There have been unsuccessful Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) bids in the past. The HLF (now the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF)) have made it clear that they would welcome a bid for restoration work at Elvaston, but that this would require clear evidence of secured match funding and a strategy to ensure the sustainability of any work they fund (such as the ongoing maintenance and care of the infrastructure). Running costs would have to be covered by commercial activities.
When will the work start, and how long will it take?
Restoration work is already underway in some areas, for example the clock tower is now restored and looking great. Regarding the Masterplan, work has started to secure funding and planning permission for various elements of the programme. This takes considerable time. Competitive tender processes will then be undertaken to find construction partners. The construction work itself could start as early as 2022 and it is expected to take up to 5 years to complete.
Why is it taking so long?
All big projects of this nature take a long time. There’s a huge amount of preparatory work and financial planning to do, as well as designing the new buildings and renovations, securing funding and planning permission and tendering for construction and operational partners, before any physical development can start.
Covid-19 has had a huge economic impact. Can the country still afford this project?
The goal for Elvaston is to become self-sustaining. By investing now, there is a long term saving to the County. The income generated at Elvaston will be used to cover its running costs and to repay the loan. Hence the need to increase visitor numbers and deliver what local communities want.
Shouldn’t the Council focus on projects that have a positive impact on local prosperity?
Investing in Elvaston directly affects local prosperity. Increased visitors into the area supports local facilities, for instance pubs, cafes, shops. It is important that we don’t just focus solely on prosperity, though. COVID-19, lockdown, and the challenges provided by the ‘new normal’, are reminders of just how important mental and physical wellbeing is. Elvaston is a wonderful space for people to enjoy and engage with the great outdoors. Ensuring that Elvaston is available for as many people as possible to access should absolutely be a priority.
How many jobs will be created?
An Economic Impact Assessment has been undertaken to estimate the number of jobs likely to be created. The current plans would result in an estimated 194 jobs, with over 100 of these being additional to the current numbers. There will also be temporary jobs during the construction work.
Will they be mostly minimum wage jobs, like housekeeping and hospitality?
The proposals are likely to need an Estate Director to oversee the whole operation and, a Park Manager to oversee maintenance and gardening, visitor experience and education aspects. In addition, there will be several posts to operate the business side such as events, marketing, finance, HR as well as housekeeping and hospitality. Many of these jobs will be created by the businesses who will be based at Elvaston and will include a variety of skilled, specialist roles and more general front of house jobs.
How do I apply for one of these jobs you are creating?
There will be a variety of jobs created at Elvaston, ranging from housekeeping and hospitality to independent businesses, offices and workshops. When the facilities are in place, which will be a few years away yet, jobs will be advertised and available for local people to apply for.
Do you have any sponsorship, crowdfunding or giving options?
Elvaston Castle and Gardens Trust is working on the development of giving schemes and will be publicising these once they are launched.
Why does the County Council/ECGT have a remit to set up and run a holiday lettings business at Elvaston, funded by the Council? Won’t this mostly benefit people from other parts of the UK?
It is envisaged that most visitors will be local people, however some visitors will obviously come from much farther afield. These visitors will benefit from staying in such wonderful surroundings. The money they pay will directly support and help the longevity of Elvaston, which is a direct benefit to the people of Derbyshire. Bringing visitors to Derbyshire is an important part of keeping the local economy healthy.
Is there any risk of corruption?
No. The Trust have clear and transparent charitable aims that have been approved by the Charity Commission. Similarly, the County Council is held to the strictest ethical standards, common to all public bodies spending public money. The financial accounts of all Trusts are filed with the Charity Commission and Companies House and will be subject to independent review in line with Charity Commission and Companies House requirements.
Is it true that Derbyshire County Council will be giving themselves planning permission?
By virtue of the Town and Country Planning General Regulations 1992, the County Council is required to determine its own planning applications. Members of the Council’s Regulatory Planning Committee are bound by the Code of Good Planning Practice which is designed to be fair both to applicants and to other people. This ensures that the Council makes impartial decisions in the interests of the community at large.
Will the road provide access for large housing developments in the future?
The design of the proposed access road into the Elvaston estate has been undertaken to be sympathetic to the surrounding environment to provide a route that is more akin to a private drive in terms of width and curvature. National design standards used for classified roads and new residential streets have not been applied; instead width and curvature have been determined through careful consideration of the number and type of vehicles likely to be used by visitors to the estate. Vehicle tracking software has been used to enable the designers to map the extents of the road a car or coach would need to safely pass along the route. Widths have been kept to a practical minimum and bends tightened as far as possible to encourage a slow speed and courteous driving: for example, a coach will need to use the full width of the road at tighter bends, so warning signs sympathetic to the surroundings are proposed to make other drivers alert to the need to drive courteously.
What happens to the park if this plan fails?
There are limited options available. Doing nothing would result in further decline and more restrictions on public access. Selling the estate would be difficult without giving a “dowry” to the buyer and could result in even more restrictive access for the public. The Elvaston Masterplan outlines a sustainable solution which secures Elvaston’s long-term future, delivers restoration of the park, gardens and castle, and maintains free access at the point of entry on foot. This will secure Elvaston as a valued amenity for future generations.
Isn’t this all about business and money? Have you forgotten it is a park? Why not leave it alone?
We need to secure a sustainable future for Elvaston. The investment brings in income to support running costs and to ensure that the park remains open to the public. To do this, there must be income generation activity. However, we believe that any business taking place should reflect the ethos of the estate. Development of Elvaston means ‘respecting the past, living in the present and embracing the future’. Continued decline could result in closure of the park to the public and potential sale of the site. Leaving it alone is not an option.
What about the 10k signature petition about the road, did you ignore that?
We listened carefully to the petition, and to the feedback from the public consultation. The petition asked us to consider three specific areas of concern. As a result, we no longer plan to move the showground to a new location and we are now looking for leisure or education related uses for Home Farm. We plan to use the enabling development sites for low impact sustainable holiday lodges rather than new residential property. We also looked in detail at feedback around the new access drive and have chosen our preferred option based on public feedback. This has been further refined to ensure minimal impact and to ensure the route is outside the registered park and gardens.
Can’t you simply do less, spend less, put on a few events, run a few markets, and put the “spirit of place” at less risk?
The size and scale of the investment and activity needed to make the estate viable will take more than a few events to fund. The Trust is committed to an intensive, long term plan that preserves and revitalises Elvaston. A key part of our strategy is that it doesn’t end up in the same position it is in now. That means a sustained, systematic plan to safeguard its future which addresses all the issues, not just those visible to the public.
How can I object to the plans?
Anyone is free to contact the Trust at any time to discuss concerns. All new developments will require planning permission and any objections can be put forward as part of that process.
I live very locally. Should I be concerned?
The park will be busier. However, there will be improved and much-needed local facilities, and a range of events for a wide range of ages and backgrounds. The new access drive will alleviate traffic for local communities. The plans are intended to ensure Elvaston remains open for local people to enjoy. Access on foot will remain free. We hope that most people will be happy with most of the changes. Positively, many people have simply said “Thank goodness that somebody is finally doing something”
Have you consulted with the public?
In 2014 a number of public engagement events took place to consult on the future plans for Elvaston. In summer 2018 a series of public consultation events were undertaken to help us hone the Masterplan. In 2019 the Elvaston Castle and Gardens Trust started a series of events providing opportunities for the public to meet with us to share concerns and ideas. These have been put on hold due to social distancing guidelines, but we hope to restart these as soon as possible. We also plan to hold a number of focus groups with a spectrum of current and future park users to help us refine our plans.
What happened about the planned hotel and golf course?
The hotel and golf course were part of a 2006 proposal that was unsuccessful. These are not a part of our future plans for Elvaston.
Why has the park been allowed to get into this state?
The Elvaston team work hard every day to take care of the estate and do a quite outstanding job with such limited resources. They would love the additional resources to do so much more to preserve, protect and do justice to this wonderful place.
The cost of running an estate like Elvaston is significant and over time the County Council has only been able to use public funds for minimal maintenance and essential repairs. Over time, in such an old and complex space like Elvaston, it has become harder and harder to keep up with the issues that have arisen. The Masterplan has been in the making for a long time with the intention of resolving the challenges by proposing sufficient investment to repair the maintenance backlog and bringing in facilities that will generate income to make Elvaston self-sustaining. As an independent charitable organisation, the Trust will not be constrained by public funds and can make financial decisions to enable a positive future for Elvaston and all the people that love it.
Wasn’t it going to be sold to a hotel?
Yes. There was significant pressure against this plan, and it failed. Many alternatives have been considered since. The Elvaston Masterplan, under the Trust’s guidance, represents a sound and realistic option for a viable and sustainable future for Elvaston.