McCAULEY: 'It's not fair to the people of Plymouth to do nothing'
THE millionaire owner of Drake's Island says work to build a luxury resort on the scheduled monument will begin next spring.
Former Plymouth Argyle chairman Dan McCauley spoke to The Herald after Drake's Island was placed on this year's Heritage At Risk register.
Mr McCauley said: "I want to do it in my lifetime. I'm 73, so I must get on with it.
"It's not fair to the people of Plymouth either," he went on. "We've got to get moving."
Since buying the 6.5-acre island in Plymouth Sound from the Crown Estate in 1995, Mr McCauley has had plans to turn it into a tourist attraction rejected by Plymouth City Council and has considered converting the island's old barracks into a luxury home.
The current plan, to convert the island into an exclusive resort, was first aired in 2005 but has suffered repeated setbacks.
Yesterday Mr McCauley, who owns industrial group Rotolok (Holdings) Ltd, said: "Primarily it's going to be a venue for weddings and commercial hospitality.
"I'm putting money into an account for the work now, and hopefully work will start in spring next year."
He said the delay had been due to the fact that his multi-million-pound project on the Caribbean island of Antigua had overrun, taking four years instead of two.
Dozens of images of Drake's Island past and present have been uploaded to iHerald
Mr McCauley said he would start by restoring the island and then work with an architect and in consultation with English Heritage to build the resort.
Drake's Island, which has been described as 'the jewel in the city's crown', was the site of an ancient chapel, demolished to make way for fortifications when the island was garrisoned in 1551.
It had a strategic position guarding Devonport's growing naval base, and was also used as a prison.
The island is mainly scheduled, with four Grade II-listed buildings.
It is the most high-profile of four historical buildings in the Plymouth area to be placed on the at-risk list by English Heritage this week.
Efford Fort and Emplacement, Woodland Fort and Warleigh House in Bickleigh have also been added, and join Boringdon Arch, Devonport Guildhall and the old Academy Theatre on Union Street among other landmark buildings on the list.
Phil McMahon, inspector of ancient monuments with English Heritage, said Heritage At Risk status could be granted for a number of reasons, ranging from trees growing in walls to climate change and rising sea levels.
Of Drake's Island, he said: "It's really suffering the effects of not being used."
Mr McMahon said the Heritage At Risk list did not carry any legal implications and was aimed at galvanising people into action.
He said: "We would always be interested in working with the owners to see if we can improve things."
He said many of the problems affecting monuments were no fault of the owners.
But Mr McCauley admitted: "It is my fault.
"I own Drake's Island, after all, and it's my job to put it right."
He added: "The grass must be four feet high and there are seagulls nesting in the rooms, but otherwise it's in fine condition – but I will put it right."
Mr McMahon said the Plymouth forts were added to the Heritage at Risk register this year on the advice of Plymouth City Council.
No-one at the council was available for interview yesterday.