The operators of Warwick Castle are being urged to restore a rose garden they removed for their maze attraction.
Around 18 months ago Merlin Entertainments, which owns Warwick Castle, removed a rose garden and installed a Horrible Histories Maze in its place.
A rose garden was created on the Warwick Castle site in the 1860s but the garden was lost to a twentieth century tennis court and was re-created in 1984.
The garden’s removal has caused controversy with residents and organisations in Warwick, in particular because the garden was officially opened by Princess Diana in 1986.
Merlin recently submitted a retrospective planning application for the maze, which was refused by Warwick District Council’s planning committee on Tuesday. The maze features hedges made from Portugal Laurel and props such as barrels and trunks. One of the areas of the maze features a seven metre-long Viking Boat – which requires planning permission.
Before the meeting a number of bodies and organisations objected to the plans.
Cllr Neil Murphy, who is a town and district councillor, spoke at the meeting on behalf of the town council about the planning application.
Speaking to The Courier, Cllr Murphy said: “They have gone behind our backs and it is out of order. This has been going on for 18 months and they should have consulted us. A Viking ship has got nothing to do with Warwick. I would like to see the rose garden back.”
They have got 40 acres of land to put something like this. The garden was an area where it was quite and tranquil.”
Warwick Town Council’s objection said: “The Town Council are shocked that permission was not sought before the works were carried out. The rose garden was Warwick’s link to Princess Diana and should be restored and maintained.”
Cllr Terry Morris, who is a town and district councillor, also spoke against the retrospective planning application for the Viking Ship at Warwick Castle.
He said: “I appreciate that Warwick Castle need to ensure that there are sufficient reasons to attract guests.
“The high costs of maintaining the Castle dictate the need to generate significant revenues.
“I also note that Warwick Castle’s own website states ‘Our history reaches back almost 11 centuries. As custodians of the Castle we take our responsibility seriously - and have spent over £6,000,000 in the last 10 years alone on restoration.’
“The Castle Grounds cover some 64 acres - there are many more appropriate places that this attraction could have been sited.
“I believe that the right thing for Warwick Castle to do is to reinstate the Victorian Rose Gardens.”
James Mackay, who spoke on behalf of the Conservation Advisory Forum, said: “The rose garden was a beautiful part of the castle grounds. It was appealing to the whole age range of society. It was carefully reinstated in the 1980s and opened by Princess Diana.
“It is worrying that the castle’s attitude was that another children’s playground was more important than all the historical significance of the rose garden.
“We still hope that Merlin will understand how highly the garden was regarded by people both locally and visiting and not just remove the Viking ship but restore the rose garden again.”
Adam Busiakiewicz, who spoke on behalf of the Warwickshire Gardens Trust at the meeting, told The Courier: “That area of Warwick Castle was always a place of isolation and beauty – a place where you could be enthralled by flowers.
“I would urge them to put the garden back but I would also encourage the castle to take themselves as stewards enormously seriously. They also have an enormous moral responsibility.”
Merlin Entertainments have been contacted for a comment.