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McCauley: It's my fault Drake's Island is on at-risk list

By This is Cornwall  |  Posted: June 23, 2009

  • McCAULEY: 'It's not fair to the people of Plymouth to do nothing'

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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.

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    tony france, weston super mare  |  January 03 2011, 2:24PM

    i visit the hoe every w/end and sigh with despair at the state of drakes island, i live in weston super mare, and it seems to be the norm for councils to sell of valuable assets for a fraction of there value we have prime examples in weston ie the old pier the tropicana etc these people these people live in a decadence of victorian times and have no interest in providing facilities for local people or visitors to enjoy they just want to say they own it, [plus the usual tax benefits of course] if the owner would like to sell it i guarantee it to be open within a year for activities for visitors and local people and schools, youth clubs etc, propertys and historic monuments are there to be and should be enjoyed by all not left to fall into disrepair. im sure the owner over 16 yrs has recouped most if not all of his outlay so once again if he wants to sell i would be more than happy to sit down and discuss any proposals he may have

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    kev, kent  |  November 26 2009, 10:37AM

    I love that island used to go there when a boy in the sixties, for adventure holiday for 5 years untill left the school still remember the stories of the ghost of the prisoners on the island.and doing real rock climbing,sailing,canoeing not this P.C adventure stuff they do nowdays they should reinstate as a adventure centre again,vistors centre give people the chance to experience of the island

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    Bernard Fox, Leicester  |  November 22 2009, 4:39PM

    Having visited Plymouth for the first time this year, I thought it would be just another city with shops and very few places of interest. BOY WAS I WRONG! I was realy overwhelmed by the history of your city it's port, its long and ongoing connection with our armed forces and history in the making. I therefore plan to visit many times more in the next few years. I would realy like to visit Drakes Island but I believe that is not possible at present. I would have thought that Drakes Island, which I would be more than eager to visit (as the boat trip would be an added attraction) would make an ideal and unique museum and focal point for the history of Plymouth and Devonport as most of the area and historic places can be seen from the island. If thoughtfully worked out and done it could be one of the worlds very best museums with interactive displays and historical actors (Napolionic, Victorian, WWI & II Cold War, not to mention the fantastic veiws for tourists and revenue it would bring in, not to mention employment? The island has a fantastic potential, please dont let it go to waste. I dont think, from the comment's I've read so far on this page, that the people and Council of Plymouth realise what a priceless uncut jewel already set in a shining sea you have?

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    jo, plymouth  |  June 26 2009, 3:12PM

    why are people saying put the travellers there? Its a gorgeous little island, the last thng i want to see when i look at it is loads of rubbish and trailers!! Make it into beautiful gardens etc, something you can charge a small fee to people to visit.I would pay a small fee to go there rather than never being able to go there.

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    Mike, Plymouth  |  June 24 2009, 3:58PM

    leave it as it is and use it as a pen for those on ASBO's. Drop a few food parcels every now and then and let them all fight over them

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    Good Evens, ply  |  June 24 2009, 11:07AM

    The council gave this to this man for the price of a two bedroom flat, On the premise that he would do something in exchange for reciving the island, He is clearly in breach of his contract and the island should be reclaimed by the council for the people of plymouth.

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    Reg, Efford  |  June 24 2009, 5:36AM

    human, Devon - bad idea mate, no big money in that for the owner or the people of Plymouth. And come on if you were a young lad or lady or on benefits would you want to do work or sit at home watching TV. Plus the PC brigade would have you.

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    Ben, plymouth  |  June 23 2009, 8:00PM

    planning permisson sure does suck :(

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    david, efford  |  June 23 2009, 7:41PM

    travellers site is still the best idea... at least thy have no neighbours that it are being forced upon without their democratic consent and having the convenient racist law used against them for daring to think of commonsense.

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    human, Devon  |  June 23 2009, 7:18PM

    I seem to recall that the Drakes island (or st Nicholas island) used to be used by youth groups for adventure days, weekends etc. This would be a really good way to use it again. Perhaps some organisation, or the Council could buy it and use the Unpaid Work people to upgrade/make safe the buildings and open it for a similar purpose.