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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 April, 2003, 11:28 GMT 12:28 UK
Funding boost for historic site
Exeter's Rougemont Castle
The site currently houses Exeter's combined court centre
Plans to create a major tourist attraction at Exeter's Rougemont Castle have been boosted with the announcement of 900,000 of funding from the South West Regional Development Agency (RDA).

The RDA will provide Exeter City Council with the cash to purchase the historic site.

Early ideas under discussion for the future use of the site, which is currently home to Exeter's combined court centre, include creating a major tourist attraction similar to York's Jorvik Centre.

Other plans include the creation of office space, an outdoor theatre and a footpath linking the city centre to Northernhay Gardens, Britain's oldest public park.

Ancient volcano

"I am delighted we were able to provide funding for this project," said Nick Harrington, RDA development manager.

"It's still early days regarding the castle's end use but the combination of tourist attraction, open- air theatre and office space would help to create jobs, increase visitor numbers and boost the local economy."

Rougemont castle is one of the oldest castles in Britain.

It was originally the site of an ancient volcano, later becoming a fort of King Alfred, with William the Conqueror building the castle in 1068 shortly after the Battle of Hastings.

"The City Council is pleased to be working with the RDA and other partners to develop this important part of Exeter's history," said Richard Ball, head of economy and tourism at Exeter City Council.

"It will create a new opportunity to support employment and provide something for residents and visitors to enjoy."

The castle is currently owned by the Lord Chancellor's Department, who will vacate the site when work on a new combined court centre - under construction in Southernhay - is completed in 2005.

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