A new director has been appointed to deliver the £80m project to transform the historic Lowther Castle and gardens near Penrith, Cumbria into a major visitor attraction.
David Horton Fawkes was appointed by the Lowther Castle & Gardens Trust to spearhead proposals for a 1,500-seat amphitheatre, complete conservation of the castle ruins, transformation of 131 acres of gardens, and new cultural, creative and educational facilities.
It is estimated that the project could eventually attract 750,000 visitors per year and create 2,000 jobs.
Horton Fawkes said: "I'm extremely excited to be part of such an ambitious and inspirational project. Lowther Castle and gardens represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create something very special for generations to come."
Horton Fawkes has worked as general manager for a number of hotels including Grade I-listed Althorp in Northampton. He was previously a director of Brand Architects in London.
Lowther Castle, built between 1804 and 1811 by Sir Robert Smirke – the architect behind the British Museum – fell into ruin over the last 50 years, but remains the seat of the Lowther family, headed by the Eighth Earl of Lonsdale.
Much depends on a bid for £25m of funding from the Big Lottery Fund's Living Landmarks programme. Lowther Castle & Gardens is amongst four projects from the North West, and 29 nationally, which are competing in the Living Landmarks final round. The other three in the region are the Blackpool People's Playground, an urban park on the seafront; a new community theatre proposed by Knowsley Council and the Northern Shakespeare Trust; and the Irwell Riverside Walkway, restoring the River Irwell into a city park in Manchester.
A final decision on funding is expected to be made by the end of September.
The Lowther Castle project is also seeking funds from Cumbria Vision, part of the North West Development Agency, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the European-backed Leonardo Fund.
Designs for the new-look Lowther Castle were created by Sheppard Robson and the construction consultant is Gardiner & Theobald.
Tim Evans, creative director of Sheppard Robson, said the scheme is broken up into three main packages: the restoration and stabilisation of the ruined castle; the preservation of its grounds; and the creation of "contemporary modern insertions", both on the castle itself and in its grounds.
Subject to funding, work could start towards the end of 2008.