A TRUST has been set up by a community group in Worcestershire determined to save an historic castle and library from private buyers.

The Friends of Hartlebury Castle and the Hurd Library have formed the trust, which is soon to become a registered charity, because they are convinced if the building is sold privately, parts of it would be dismantled.

In September your Worcester News reported that Worcestershire County Council was looking to buy and refurbish the castle in a £3.5 million scheme. The council said 11 different companies had approached it to express an interest in forming a partnership.

However the friends are worried that if this does go ahead, the historic library would be dismanted and removed.

George Ward, spokesman for the trust, said: “The county council is currently considering brokering a sale to a private developer. This is a totally unacceptable solution to the future of Hartlebury Caste and is not in the public interest. The castle could be sold on or closed to the public at any time.

“It is unthinkable that the castle could be allowed to fall into the hands of private developers.”

The 1,000-year-old castle was put up for sale by its owner, the Church Commissioners, in November 2007. The castle has been the home of Bishops of Worcester for 800 years. It is currently home to the county museum and the world-renowned Hurd Library of ancient books.

The council has previously said it believes the castle’s maintenance could be funded by hiring it out for weddings, conferences and other events but it wanted a private firm on board to share the finances.

But the trust believes it has a robust business plan for the castle – along with having the skills and knowledge to run a heritage attraction – and has support from English Heritage and the Georgian Group.

Mr Ward said he believed the trust would be the only way to ensure the building stayed open to the public and became a major tourist attraction.

He thanked Wychavon District Council for its help and support and said he hoped the trust could work with both the district and county councils.

In response to the trust’s proposals and concerns, councillor Philip Gretton, cabinet member for adult and community services, said: “Worcestershire County Council has been working very closely with a number of organisations, including the Friends of Hartlebury Castle and the Hurd Library, to try to secure the future of Hartlebury Castle.”

He said that a sale was ultimately in the hands of the Church Commissioners as they are the owners.

Paul Middlebrough, leader of Wychavon, said: “We appreciate the hard work of the friends and we’re offering our support in the form of heritage and property expertise.”

The future of the castle is due to be discussed by the county council’s cabinet on Monday, February 9.